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Doc G's Observatory Control Room

This is the control room for the Doc G Observatory. It is located in the club house at the Madison Astronomical Society dark site.  The computer equipment is connected with underground cables to the Observatory building shown through the window.   The observatory is closed in this photo.  When the building is rolled back, the telescope is visible from the control position in front of the computers.   At this time, there are two computers assigned to run the telescope.  One is used to point the telescope and guide it and the other is used to operate the imaging system.  The philosophy of this design is to ensure that the telescope can be pointed and guided accurately no matter if it used for CCD imaging with or without focal reducers or magnifiers, piggy back photography or video imaging.  Having the pointing and guiding system entirely independent of the imaging needs help ensure that it is permanently adjusted for optimum performance.

Computer Room

The computer in the background is a 486DX2 machine with a large memory and three 1/2 G hard drives.  It is an aging server type machine but quite adequate for this application.  A number or other large planetarium programs are available on the hard drives and/or from the CD rom drive.  It is usually run under a WIN 95 OS.  One of the hard drives holds the entire SKY- IV software system complete with Bisque's T-Point for precision pointing of the 12".  It is devoted entirely to telescope pointing operations.  The 12" LX200 is connected to this computer through the standard 232 port.  Once basic pointing has been accomplished, the computer is tasked over to guiding via a CCD imager located on the Celestron C-5 guiding telescope. This in effect locks the telescope to a selected sky field for imaging.  The telescope is very carefully polar aligned so that there is no detectable field rotation for long periods of time.

Imaging is done with the second computer shown in the middle ground.  It is a fast Pentium machine with large memory and storage capacity and large capacity removable medium drives (Bernoulli and Syquest).  With this arrangement, images can be processed on the spot or stored and taken to another computer for processing.  Imaging is done with a parallel connection to the ST-7 imager, at  a distance of 90 feet.   This length cable has worked well on the ST-7. Full automation for imaging is provided with the Optec filter slider.

Additional control cables are provided for photography with Canon cameras that have remote shutter control and auto winders for the film. In addition to the computers, a TV monitor and VCR (S-VHS), shown in the foreground (rather dark), are provided to remotely view and record images of planets or larger objects such as the moon or sun with appropriate lenses and filters.   The optical projection attachment, mainly for planets,  is shown at another location on this web site.

Because the telescope is in direct view through the window, it can be monitored visually or even through binoculars if desired.  An intercom is provided so that the operator can communicate with a helper when certain setup maneuvers have to be performed.  There are also indicator lights which are  illuminated when the telescope is in use though unattended.

The Observatory is shown below in fine Wisconsin viewing weather with slightly frozen Doc G.  We had five weeks of cloudy days and nights followed by three days of cold drizzle followed by more cloudy nights followed by 6 inches of damp snow and a week of 10 degree weather.   Not even remote control helps under these conditions.  :-(     Note the Societies newly rebuilt 11" building in the background.


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