Here is a LONG overdue status update for the observatory.
You may have noticed that the RRRT has been running on Skynet. We were testing out the system before posting any official status update to ensure everything was working properly. Unfortunately time got away from us, as we intended to post an update a while ago.
We are happy to announce we are back up and running. There were a number of changes that have occurred during this extended downtime:
- There is a new Telescope Control System (TCS) running the telescope.
- We have gone back to the SBIG STX-16803 camera due to issues with the Apogee U42 camera.
- To cut down on scattered moon light, the inside of the primary mirror baffle tube was re-painted and a telescope shroud has been installed.
New Telescope Control System
Back in October of 2019 the Telescope Control System (TCS) that had been running the telescope for approximately ten years ended up failing. This original TCS was a Software Bisque MKS4000 unit, which was unfortunately no longer in production. The newer MKS5000 model was purchased, and significant time was spent trying to get this TCS to run the telescope. Despite significant effort, and many discussions and assistance from the manufacturer, we were never able to reach a point where the controller would run the telescope. Ultimately we had to send this unit back and search for another solution.
We selected the Force One Brushless Controller from Sidereal Technology. Making the change to this TCS required re-wiring, a new power supply, and a new electronics enclosure to house everything.
|Force One Brushless Controller from Sidereal Technology. Image from https://www.siderealtechnology.com/store.html|
We have been extremely pleased with this new controller and the associated control software. The software, SiTech.exe, is ASCOM
compliant, allowing us to control everything on the telescope from the
SiTech program directly. Sidereal Technology was amazingly fast at
responding to our questions, and we were able to speak directly with the
owner of the company for assistance when installing the controller.
Hands down one of the best customer service experiences you could ask
for. In fact we were so pleased that we have decided to eventually
upgrade the control systems for the other telescopes at Fan Mountain
Observatory to Force One controllers.
The Force One controller
has some additional features that the old TCS did not have. It has the
ability to incorporate axis encoders in addition to the motor encoders
we are currently using. Axis encoders were not originally part of the
telescope, however we hope to add these in the future. In addition,
limit switches can also be incorporated, and we hope to include these in
the future as well.
New (old) Camera
The plan was to move forward with the Apogee U42 camera that was originally purchased for use on the telescope by Norfolk State University. However chamber issues that could not be fixed by the manufacturer caused us to abandon this plan. We currently have the SBIG STX-16803 camera installed, and plan to continue using this for the foreseeable future. The detector chip in the STX-16803 is physically larger than the detector chip in the U42 camera. Because the new tailpiece was designed for the smaller U42 camera there is now significant vignetting. We are aware of this, and we are in the process of designing a new tailpiece to correct this, however we plan to continue with the current configuration until at least the end of the semester.
- Sloan u', g', r', i'
- Johnson/Cousins B, V, R
Reducing Scattered Moonlight
Two modifications have been made to the telescope to reduce scattered moonlight. The first of these was to paint the inside of the primary mirror baffle tube to cover an exposed section of bare metal. For whatever reason this section was not painted originally.
The second modification was to install a shroud around the telescope tube, as seen below. These two modifications should help in reducing scattered moonlight.
|Telescope with shroud|