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Micro Observatory Project

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posted on Mar, 22 2015 @ 03:26 PM
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I decided a few days ago to undertake a wee project to design, build, and deploy a "Micro Observatory"...robot telescope.



It seemed rather straightforward, at first, and to be sure, the hardware wasn't too much of a challenge, though I'm sure there could be some refinement there.

What I'm building...is a robotic telescope, based on the Celestron Nexstar Evolution 8. I choose the 8 inch because it provided reasonable resolution (0.48 arcsec), and was relatively inexpensive. I'm going to use a compatible 10MP camera with the device.

Most of the hardware is taken care of, but the software side still needs a wee bit f work. And, that is what I'd like to approach here; the software. As I'm a retired Software Engineer, I'll be doing all of that.

So far I plan for the usual stuff; positioning of the telescope, dome control, camera control, mostly basic stuff that applies to virtually any other twist on the application.

Thoughts, opinions, suggestions, I'd like t discuss as many aspects of this animal as possible while I'm building it so as to build something truly superior.




posted on Mar, 22 2015 @ 03:35 PM
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How do you plan to change optics?

eta: never mind, you probably don't have to worry about using Barlows in between to diddle the focal length
edit on 22-3-2015 by Bedlam because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 22 2015 @ 03:44 PM
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a reply to: tanka418

I have nothing to offer other than FREAKIN SWEET! Wish I had one



posted on Mar, 22 2015 @ 03:47 PM
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originally posted by: Bedlam
How do you plan to change optics?


Probably won't be much changing of the optics unless I can find something to do that like the filter carousals that are available.

Fortunately some of the lens changing can be handled by the software via simulation. The camera is 10 MP , so there is quite a lot of "electronic zoom" that can be used.

So, I guess, for now it will be sort of fixed, perhaps a 2X or 3X Barlow on special request. Although, all that really does is increase the effective resolution

Something I didn't mention in the OP and probably should have. The camera is a "Nightscape CCD camera " (Kodak KAI-10100 Color Sensor) it is a cooled, 10.7MP camera designed specifically for this application.



posted on Mar, 22 2015 @ 03:47 PM
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a reply to: tanka418

I can only offer you a double thumbs up and a request to please keep me posted on your progress.



posted on Mar, 22 2015 @ 03:50 PM
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originally posted by: Autorico
a reply to: tanka418

I have nothing to offer other than FREAKIN SWEET! Wish I had one


The good news is; once its up and running, yuo can use it...free...
I'm planning a policy that will allow anybody with Internet 15 minutes in 4 hours for free...direct control of the instrument.



posted on Mar, 22 2015 @ 06:05 PM
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originally posted by: tanka418

The good news is; once its up and running, yuo can use it...free...
I'm planning a policy that will allow anybody with Internet 15 minutes in 4 hours for free...direct control of the instrument.



That is really decent of you.

It is also a hope of mine that someday the very same ability to control such a instrument on Mars will be made available to the masses- an array of cameras operated by curious souls on earth.
edit on 142706561903bSun, 22 Mar 2015 18:06:59 -0500pmndu03u59 by UmbraSumus because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 22 2015 @ 06:22 PM
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originally posted by: tanka418

originally posted by: Bedlam
How do you plan to change optics?


Probably won't be much changing of the optics unless I can find something to do that like the filter carousals that are available.



They have those? I've got a small reflector but it's not something I have a lot of time or money to really put into the way I'd like if I were home more. Then again, the seeing from Florida is not superb.



posted on Mar, 22 2015 @ 07:24 PM
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originally posted by: Bedlam

originally posted by: tanka418

originally posted by: Bedlam
How do you plan to change optics?


Probably won't be much changing of the optics unless I can find something to do that like the filter carousals that are available.



They have those? I've got a small reflector but it's not something I have a lot of time or money to really put into the way I'd like if I were home more. Then again, the seeing from Florida is not superb.


Yes, a "filter wheel" as it is called holds up to 5 positions (filters), costs about $120.00

But, ya know, you are just the sort that I'm trying to reach. Interest, but little time or money. You can "star gaze" from your PC, Tablet or phone...

I've seen several threads lately that involved some astronomical event, many just read and wish they could take a look. And, there are actually other online telescopes around, though only one that is low cost, most cost from $14/hr (that is for a telescope some smaller than the one I planning).

I live, and will be deploying the telescope, in rural Texas. About 40 miles south-east from Dallas, Tx. there is virtually no "light pollution" here.



posted on Mar, 22 2015 @ 09:41 PM
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a reply to: tanka418

Well, that's fantastic news!

Its bloody marvellous that you are taking advantage of the low light pollution in your region to set this up! What are your thoughts on electronic zoom when compared with straight optical zoom?



posted on Mar, 23 2015 @ 10:53 AM
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originally posted by: TrueBrit
a reply to: tanka418

Well, that's fantastic news!

Its bloody marvellous that you are taking advantage of the low light pollution in your region to set this up! What are your thoughts on electronic zoom when compared with straight optical zoom?


Electronic vs Optical zoom...

Actually a rather important pint here...In my experience both are limited to a large degree. The optical by the size and quality of the lenses used, and the electronic by how large I can make a pixel with its size detracting from the image (pixilation).

I have an older Fuji DSLR with two types of zoom on it; Optical and electronic. The optical is limited to 2X and the digital to 10X which seems t work out rather well.

Something I've noticed while processing images is that the more pixels that are available the more One can digitally "zoom" on an image. My Fuji produces an image that is around 2000 X 3000 (nearly), this actually allows me to select a small portion of the image an "blow it p" significantly. My Fuji is on the order of 3MP. The camera I've chosen is a 10.7MP, its final output is somewhat larger with nearly 3800 X 2700 pixels. This I feel should allow for a good amount of "zoom" electronically in the pre-production phase of an image, the user should be able to get even more in his post production processing.

And, unfortunately, at this time it appears that I don't have much choice. Your questions and Bedlam's questions got me to thinking, and looking. So I went in search of a robotic solution to the changing of lens issue; I didn't find one.. There are however, these things they call "filter wheel"...basically a device that holds several filters and rotates them into place on demand. My thoughts are that IF we could get the lens manufacturer to assemble their lenses in a manner that is compatible wit the filter wheels, then I can give the option of changing lenses "n the fly". Other wise, I will develop some way to allow for the changing of lenses on "special request". Unfortunately, this will also require that the telescope be taken down briefly for the lens change.

Seems that it may be in the best interests of my observatory, and the astronomy community in general, to pursue this "additional" technology with the les providers.

I'd like to thank you and Bedlam for bringing this up...this is the purpose of this thread...to identify these issues and begin the process of finding a solution.



posted on Mar, 26 2015 @ 11:37 AM
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I've found a nice addition t the features of my observatory; an "All Sky" camera. Sold by Orion Telescopes it is a 180 degree "fisheye" lens that can be attached to most astrometric cameras...just like the ones I've already selected...



This addition alng with the appropriate software will allow for the capturing of random "sky events", or just viewing the sky...



posted on Mar, 26 2015 @ 01:18 PM
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a reply to: tanka418

Oooooh!

That will be perfect for catching errant shooting stars and the like! Good find tanka418!



posted on Mar, 27 2015 @ 12:47 PM
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One of the early design goals was to allow the user direct control of the telescope. Something I don't think any of the others allow, and actually for good reason. Machines are not typically known for their intelligence, and can be easily confused; this can lead to mechanical issues.

But, I think I can create the necessary code to get around these issues...

So...here is an early proposal for a Telescope UI


This control would be available as a movable, transparent (for the most part) window, overlaid on the telescope "view" or image.



posted on Apr, 9 2015 @ 03:27 PM
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Now that I have a moment I'd like to tell you about the technology in the dome.

Wile it wasn't much of a surprise to learn that nobody manufactures one of these, it was a bit disappointing.



It just seems to me that a "dome" with and "aperture" id a requirement of a Telescope Observatory. But, alas the only solution for protecting telescope is a shed where the entire roof "rolls" out of the way. That isn't, in my opinion, a very elegant solution, and may be less than advised for a stand-alone robotic telescope.

So I designed what you see above.

This assembly supports a 3 frequency 1/2 geodesic dome. A slot is built into it for the aperture. The geodesic structure will be covered with heavy fiberglass to provide a reasonable secure, and weather resistant cover. The aperture will be opened ad closed by a chain drive and reversible motors.

The dome will be mounted to a octagonal base, with a 30 inch hole in the center. The hole will support a short "skirt" to allow it to be positioned by a belt and reversible electric motor. a "ring" of small "button" magnets will be added at 5 degree intervals for position sensing via Hall effect sensors.

The sensing and motor control will be part of a USB interface connected to the Server.

The telescope itself will be mounted on a short pedestal on a platform that can be raised, and lowered, by computer control. This will allow me to automate the "deploy" function for the Telescope, and, the process of retreating to safety in case of serious weather.



posted on Apr, 13 2015 @ 02:48 PM
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I learned some exciting stuff this morning.

I have bee discussing this project with a fellow ATS member "JadeStar", who is actually an Astronomy student, and of course, far or knowledgeable that this old engineer.

This morning in a message she asked IF was interested in Exoplanet research, and that my 8 inch telescope would be large enough to detect Jupiter sized planets.

Well, the reality is that I am interested, in that aspect, and, I suspected that a 8 inch telescope, whose resolution is on the order of .6arcseconds "should" be able to detect a Jupiter sized planet...though I hadn't completed the research on that as yet.

So it now appears that I have yet another feature to add to my system; "Exoplanet Research."

After reading a couple of associated papers, and learning of actual software from NASA to help with this, it has become clear that this would only be an added "method" in the Telescope Time allocation area of the system. This hasn't even bee started yet, so...this method, to allow the collection of data from a specific star on a regular basis, can easily be added to the initial specification...pretty much as I imagined.



posted on Apr, 16 2015 @ 06:27 PM
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I have a telescope User Interface ready for preview. You can find it at dev.wolfmagick.com... ...follow the main menu to Telescope>instrument or Telescope>instrumentalt view the two proposals I've built so far.

Personally I like the instrumental version...it's also easier from a software standpoint.

Anyway, any feedback y'all can give will be appreciated.


edit on 16-4-2015 by tanka418 because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 17 2015 @ 07:37 PM
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originally posted by: UmbraSumus

originally posted by: tanka418

The good news is; once its up and running, yuo can use it...free...
I'm planning a policy that will allow anybody with Internet 15 minutes in 4 hours for free...direct control of the instrument.



That is really decent of you.

It is also a hope of mine that someday the very same ability to control such a instrument on Mars will be made available to the masses- an array of cameras operated by curious souls on earth.


You already can do this...

Here was my ATS thread in the Space forum last year:

You Can Suggest Targets for NASA's Mars Viewing Space Telescope HiRISE



posted on Apr, 17 2015 @ 07:39 PM
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originally posted by: tanka418
I learned some exciting stuff this morning.

I have bee discussing this project with a fellow ATS member "JadeStar", who is actually an Astronomy student, and of course, far or knowledgeable that this old engineer.

This morning in a message she asked IF was interested in Exoplanet research, and that my 8 inch telescope would be large enough to detect Jupiter sized planets.

Well, the reality is that I am interested, in that aspect, and, I suspected that a 8 inch telescope, whose resolution is on the order of .6arcseconds "should" be able to detect a Jupiter sized planet...though I hadn't completed the research on that as yet.

So it now appears that I have yet another feature to add to my system; "Exoplanet Research."

After reading a couple of associated papers, and learning of actual software from NASA to help with this, it has become clear that this would only be an added "method" in the Telescope Time allocation area of the system. This hasn't even bee started yet, so...this method, to allow the collection of data from a specific star on a regular basis, can easily be added to the initial specification...pretty much as I imagined.


And like I said, if you need any help with software packages built for transit detection let me know. I see you found the one from JPL/NASA which a lot of the amateur exoplanet community has used or modified


One suggestion you might want to consider is that when you have good seeing conditions and no one has put in a request in the system queue or is controlling it in real time you have a transit target list so the telescope skews to those stars to stare at when it's not in use.


That way you're always collecting data.


Also are you familiar with python?
edit on 17-4-2015 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 17 2015 @ 07:58 PM
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a reply to: tanka418

Are you going to place the camera at f2? I live down the street from Starizona and their hyperstar is quite amazing. 10 second exposures look like hours of data collection. I know Celestron makes an f2.2 astrograph but its in like the $9,000 range and Starizona gave me a $5,000 figure for a complete 8" imaging system including software (a little more or less depending on the camera.) I'm saving up should have it in a month or 2.

edit on 17-4-2015 by BGTM90 because: (no reason given)


looked it up the Celestron Rowe-Ackermann Schmidt Astrograph is 3,500 but that just the scope you still need the tracking stand, camera, and software.
edit on 17-4-2015 by BGTM90 because: (no reason given)



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