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  • Ville Puoskari

Automate my weekend, please!

This weekend I brought my scope back to the observatory for installation. We had big plans so I was really excited about it! I started with the installation of my new Losmandy G11 mount to the pier. It had to be modified with an angle grinder to remove some excess metal from my previous adapter for EQ6. I also grinded the edges smooth from the cuts and drilled holes for the new adapter.

After this it was time for the mount and telescope installation. It was so easy compared to my previous setup because every cable and device is attached to the scope rings or Losmandy plate and not the scope. Basically they act as a cage for the telescope and camera and come off in larger pieces to avoid rewiring and rebalancing everything if I need to take the scope off the mount.

Then it was time for the polar alignment, I'm not very good at it but luckily I had Erik with me because he was installing his own scope. He was a great help and after a bit of fiddling the mount was polar aligned with PHD2 drift align. Rest of the night didn't go so well because my new mounts drivers didn't work with PHD2 pulse guiding, it turned out that I need to use POTH hub to make it work with two softwares at once. Thank god the next night was also clear so after sorting the problem I was able to test the mount. 5 minute guided subs looked excellent! Also my new focuser reduction gear improved the performance of the autofocus greatly.

We also did some upgrades to the observatory itself. One of my friends made us a new observatory controller using Banana Pi -single board computer. Now taking flats is fully automated using event scripts on Sequence Generator Pro. If a sequence of flat frames is configured in the nights image sequence the mount slews towards the panel, turns it on, changes to desired filter and takes the images. This repeats until all flat frames are done and then the flat field panel shuts off automatically. This works with both of the scopes. Also the new controller has automated sequences for the relays that make the roof move. They work over ethernet so its much faster than the previous USB relay system we had and most importantly now both users can access it from their own PC. I also made a prototype park sensor for the telescopes and it is now waiting testing at the observatory but the distance from the sensor to the scope seemed to cause false alarms at the observatory so it will have to wait for now. As soon as that is working and somebody invents a cloud / rain sensor for the observatory we are very close to autonomous observatory.

The last upgrade in this weekend was automated work lights, I bought a WiFi smart plug and some LED panels for it. Now it's possible to toggle on bright lights from any location using smart phone. No need for head torches or stumbling in the dark any more! With one click entrance to the observatory, inside of it and the tracks for the roof are illuminated instantly. I might add few more to the sides too if needed.


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