In this golden age of small-telescope astronomy, the term "armchair astronomer" has an entirely new significance. High-quality, low-cost optics have combined with advances in imaging-array technologies and sophisticated, electronic servomotor mounts to place in-struments of exceptional power and effectiveness in the hands of amateurs. Some of these instruments are exceptionally powerful and well-sited; many represent hundreds of thou-sands of dollars in investment and even larger commitments in owner/operator time. Open standards such as those in the ASCOM initiative (Web: ASCOM) have enabled automation components from many different manufacturers to work together in a more-or-less integrated fashion. The results are fully-automated, serious-amateur telescopes quite capable of variable star work, supernovae searches, and even detecting extrasolar planets. In the past few years, the control software and interfaces to these automated telescopes have become exceptionally sophisticated, surpassing professional control software at least in beauty and design, if not in raw functionality. Most of these interfaces can function through the Internet. Armchair astronomy, indeed!
Small telescopes and astronomical research: proceedings of Galileo's Legacy: a celebration of small telescopes and astronomical research four centuries later, Oahu, Hawaii, United States, 31 December 2008-05 January 2009 / Russell M. Genet, Jolyon M. Johnson and Vera Wallen (eds.),
Chapter 6, pp. 81-97