I have been physically disabled for a number of years and now find myself pretty much housebound, I am no longer able to enjoy my hobby outside so have had to find ways to work around the problem. In the past year or so I have been forced to re-evaluate my astronomy due to my physical health taking a down turn. Suffice to say we don't need to go into the specifics of what's happened to me, but this has lead me to challenge some accepted conventions and throw a few of the "thou shalt nots" out of the window altogether.
So what's this all about? What do I mean by astronomy from the inside? Well just that. Astronomy from within the confines of the four walls you call home. Most who can no longer get outside to do their astronomy, usually feel they have only one option open to them, automation. Whilst it is the ideal solution, its not usually practical for most due to the expense involved. Lets face it in order to set up you will need:
As you can see seeing obtaining change out of £7-8,000 would be a challenge. So what's wrong with using your existing set up from within your home? With a little thought and modification it can be fairly easy to achieve.
Up until now you will have most likely at some point seen or heard mention that astronomy from indoors is unrewarding or not to be recommended due to some or all of the following:
To those conventions I say "rubbish".
I will not claim that there aren't inherent problems but they can be overcome with a little thought and application ,astronomy from indoors can be just as rewarding as it is when we can get outside. So lets deal with them one issue at a time:
So now we have dealt with those issues what else do you need to know or what else will help you?
If you use a reflector or dobsonian then you are going to need a different OTA (unless you are using a 150mm or smaller short tube reflector), there is no practical way that I know off to get a telescope that size working indoors. However SCT, Maksutov and small refractors however are fine.
Changing from a large astro tripod as used on the eq5 and eq 6 type mounts, to a pedestal is a great idea, you still keep the stability, but without it taking up as much room.
Lightweight alt/az and EQ mounts are great as is a robust photography tripod for small refractors.
Binoculars on a tripod are another good idea, even large astro ones up to 80mm or more can be comfortably used from indoors.
Designating a spare room to use can be a good idea if you have one that faces in the desired direction, that way you can leave the heating at low level in there and have everything left set up and ready to go, I myself use my bedroom and have everything set up permanently.
If using the open window or door method, make sure you have both a comfortable seat to sit on and warm clothing as it can get cold, I myself use one of the thermal microfibre blankets over my shoulders, that and a pair of furry boot style slippers keep me as warm as toast.
Last and not least, I would recommend obtaining the approval of your significant other and agreeing a site that wont cause problems or discomfort for them.
Obviously target wise you will have to pick objects that are within confines of your view point from the window or door, this will mean targets cannot be too high in the sky, but limiting as this sounds it really isn't that bad, with most objects falling within your field of view at some point in the year.
In fact I myself found the limitations I faced forced me to spend time just "browsing" the sky, looking for points of interest and enjoying some of the wide field views. It also prompted me to start taking a look once again at our closest target, the Moon.
One of the luxuries I allowed myself for viewing the Moon was a pair of bino viewers, I really can't recommend them highly enough, the lunar surface becomes a whole new adventure with a pair, and yes you can use them with even a tiny little telescope such as the William optics ZS66SD.
Other highlights that have drifted past my window to the heavens recently have been Jupiter and M42. Even after all these years I am still mesmerised by the sight of M42, and the extra glass hasn't diminished its attraction or beauty at all.
By now I am hoping this has gone some way towards opening you minds to new possibilities, but I bet you didn't imagine I would mention astrophotography at all, let alone state you can still do it. Well you can!
Of course now we have to deal with a few new problems as we need an EQ mount to be aligned properly, but have one main problem, no access to the Pole Star. There are two ways around this:
I have to admit so far I have just taken lunar images in the main, though M42 will be targeted as soon as the weather permits.
Just to prove my point, below you will see a two frame mosaic of the Copernicus and Mare Ibrium areas of the Moon. This mosaic was taken with the equipment in the picture below it and with that equipment in the same position, i.e. looking out of that open window. Please also notice there is also a radiator under that same window, thus proving my earlier point.
I hope that after you have read this it will encourage those less able not to give up hope or their hobby and maybe those who thought they couldn't do this hobby as they cant get out, to have a try.
Just remember we are only limited by the scope of our imagination and ingenuity in defeating any obstacles faced.