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Bringing the Universe to Your Classroom!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Annual Visit to SkyPi Remote Observatory

Its that time of year again! Insight Observatory Systems Engineer, Muir Evenden and I are onsite at SkyPi Remote Observatory in Pie Town, New Mexico performing annual maintenance and systems upgrades to the Astronomical Telescopes for Educational Outreach (ATEO). Since we installed the 16" f/3.7 astrograph reflector, ATEO-1, exactly two years ago this month, we have been running the remote robotic telescope entirely with a Raspberry Pi. Although the Pi was very dependable to run the entire imaging system, we figured it was time for an upgrade. We successfully installed a Fitlet 2 Mini PC installed with Linux to run the ATEO Portal software that is integrated with The SkyX. With the upgrade in memory to 4GB and the 64GB external USB storage devices, we have noticed a difference in speed performance. The Raspberry Pi will remain in place for redundancy.

Insight Observatory Managing Member / Systems Engineer, Muir Evenden with ATEO-1.
Insight Observatory Managing Member / Systems Engineer, Muir Evenden with ATEO-1.

Another priority item on the "to do" list on our visit is collimation of the telescope's mirrors. The last time we performed this was on our last visit a year ago. Fortunately, we have found it necessary to only perform collimation only once a year so far. However, if collimation needs to be done again before our next visit in 2020, the reliable staff at SkyPi Remote Observatory is there to perform the task if needed in our absence.

Insight Observatory team members Michael Petrasko and Muir Evenden performing maintenance on ATEO-1.
Insight Observatory team members Michael Petrasko and Muir Evenden performing maintenance on ATEO-1.

Another important task to be completed was installing a new flat field table in Gamma observatory where the ATEO-1 imaging system is housed. Muir has been successfully acquiring sky flat fields in the past at twilight using a script he wrote, however, although that method was successful, it can be tricky at times. John Evelan, Managing Member of SkyPi Online Observatory, LLC, was gracious enough to install an LCD backlit flat field table on the observatory wall for our use. Other items on the list of tasks for ATEO-1 completed consisted of adjusting the shutter on the Proline 16803 CCD camera, LRGB, V filter inspection, performing a T-Point adjustment in the SkyX, focusing the guide scope and having a tree topped that obstructed the southern view from the observatory.

Affiliate remote telescopes ATEO-2A and ATEO-2B at twilight during testing with Venus rising (lower left).
Affiliate remote telescopes ATEO-2A and ATEO-2B at twilight during testing with Venus rising (lower left).

After our chores are completed with ATEO-1, we will be moving on to our affiliate remote robotic telescopes, ATEO-2A and ATEO-2B. We will be working with John, who owns the Williams Optics 5" f/7 refractor, ATEO-2A and the Celestron 11" f/10, ATEO-2B dedicated planetary telescope. John and his staff at SkyPi have fully modified Omega observatory where both telescopes are tandemly mounted on a Software Bisque GT1100S mount. We will be working on integrating those two imaging systems into the ATEO Portal as well as Insight Observatory's new "Starbase" dataset library that is currently in development to be released in mid-June 2019.

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