There seem to be two issues here: weight (back problem) and setup time.
These are common problems. I deal with them in my book ‘Setting-up a Small Observatory’ (Springer), and we’ll deal with them again at the Equipment & Techniques Section meeting on 17 November.
I think you have 6 general choices, which address, or not, the two issues, in different ways:
- Leave the tripod and wedge outside, polar aligned, cover it with some sort of cover, and just move the telescope and other equipment in and out each night (may not address weight problem)
- Leave the telescope and tripod outside and cover it with some sort of cover or box, either flexible or rigid, that is completely removed when you observe (might address both problems)
- Build a proper observatory (addresses all problems in the long term, but may be difficult or expensive)
- Get a system that breaks down better into lighter components, maybe tripod, German equatorial mount with dovetail fitting, and optical tube (may not solve setup time problem)
- Get a smaller telescope (solves most problems, but not good for planets)
- Get a tracking alt-az or Dobsonian system (may not solve weight problem)
Damian Peach seems to leave his C-14 outside most of the time, just covering it over with a fabric cover, and it survives. In my experience this method results in corrosion, however, and of course you’ve got a big security problem. You still need to disconnect and take in all the camera etc. More of a proper shelter or box, such the one Richard Miles built, is better. This kind of solution, if well done, allows you to leave everything outside, including cameras, power supplies and wiring, and this saves an immense amount of time.
Nothing really beats an observatory for time-saving and back-saving convenience, and at the meeting on 17 Nov I’ll be describing a ‘An observatory from a £100 shed’.
But going back a stage, without building anything, you do mention polar alignment taking ‘impossibly longer’. Imaging planets does not require very accurate polar alignment, so I wonder if you are making too much of a meal of this. Increasingly also people are using the new CMOS-based cameras from companies like ZWO and Altair to do deep sky imaging in a more ‘planetary’ manner, using stacks of short exposures (1-10s). Then they really don’t need accurate polar alignment at all. In fact planetary imaging, and this sort of short-exposure imaging of brighter deep-sky objects, is possible with the tracking alt-az or Dobsonian system I mention as option 6.
There’s a lot to consider, and in the end only you can tell what your best convenience/performance/expenditure compromise is.
Director, Equipment & Techniques Section