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Viewing the Stars with AnyDesk

Astrophotography with AnyDesk

AnyDesk connects devices all over the world. Our series about unconventional use cases confirms that. But today, we want to show you that AnyDesk doesn’t just connect people around the world, it can also connect us to the stars!

The vastness of space is a sight to behold. It shows us how tiny the world around us really is. Steve Timmons has always loved astronomy for that very reason. He got his first telescope at the age of 6, back in 1961. Over the years, he never lost interest in astronomy. Today, AnyDesk helps him operate the telescope he and his friend Casey Good use to take beautiful images of the night sky that is invisible to most people. Their subjects range from galaxies whose photons travel through space and time for millions, even billions of years until they are being photographed, to the colorful nebulae of the Milky Way.

M13, a globular star cluster in the constellation of Hercules

The friends he makes through his interest in astronomy are what Steve Timmons loves most about his hobby. He and Casey Good come from quite different backgrounds. While he is retired from a career in IT at a small community college in Iowa, Casey is a CFO at a hospital in Arizona. But because of their differing backgrounds, they complement each other perfectly. Steve configures the sequences and collects the data. “Casey merges and processes the data from different sources and creates the beautiful final images.”

Together they operate two separate telescope systems at a remote site in West Texas. In a group called the Dark Sky Observatory collaborative, from which Steve and Casey lease the space for their telescope, they found even more like-minded people. Dark Sky Observatory provides housing for his telescope, electricity, and internet connectivity. The weather conditions, and especially lighting conditions, are very important for a perfect view of the stars. “Not only is this site very remote and thereby very dark, but it is also located in the high desert that enjoys relatively little rain and an abundance of clear, dark skies.”

NGC 772, an unbarred spiral galaxy in the constellation of Aries

Ideal conditions for their telescope! But that means that operations has to be controlled from a distance. Luckily, the telescope systems, consisting of refractors, reflectors, cameras, and mounts, are IoT-capable. Each evening, Steve Timmons uses AnyDesk to connect to the remote observatory’s computer and powers up his equipment. He can then configure the software he needs for the operations to run smoothly all night. “At that point, telescope operations are essentially automated from the time the sequence begins at dark, until the sequence completes in the morning.” All the image data is automatically uploaded to a cloud, and in the morning, Steve Timmons simply connects to the computer at the observatory again to turn the systems off.

NGC 6559, a star-forming region in the constellation of Sagittarius

The results are stunning! “When I examine a photo of a larger, nearby galaxy, my gaze is diverted to the other tiny smudges in the photo consisting of other galaxies of all shapes and sizes that are mind numbingly distant.”
Another one of his favorite objects to photograph is the colorful nebula found in our own galaxy, the Milky Way. “Many of these nebulae contain star forming regions amongst beautiful patterns of ever-changing dust and gas.”

During the night he can always comfortably check if things are going well from his home. “I usually connect several times throughout the night long enough to make sure all is well. As anyone knows, things don’t always go as expected; a tweak here or there may be required to resume smooth operation. Additionally, sometimes I sneak a quick look on my cell phone when I am away for the evening.”

AnyDesk is suitable for the job because of its high performance even in remote areas. “It’s very forgiving of internet connectivity that is less than optimal.” Since he only needs the most basic function of our software – the remote access – he is glad to have a tool that is light and not overloaded with features.

We’re happy to see our software bringing new excitement into Steve Timmons’ favorite hobby! “Now that I am retired, AnyDesk’s technology has enabled me to get much more enjoyment from this amazing hobby by having my telescope at a truly dark and very, very remote mountain location in West Texas.”

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