News 2009 2008

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Power outage on 2009-12-01

BKW interrupts the power supply on 2009-12-01 between 13:00 - 17:00.

Obs. Vermes did not recover automatically from this power outage.

This outage revealed a left over from the apcupsd configuration in /etc/ini.d/halt script.

RTS2 distributed operation (2009-11-28)

In order to minimize down times due to restarts of RTS2@miyo the relationship devices/rts2-centrald has been rearranged. (2009-11-15)

Beside the usual computer system related information Munin will be used to graph the values e.g. obtained from the AAG cloud sensor.

Inspecting focus images visually with rts2_autofocus (2009-11-07)

DS9 screen shot, yellow numbers display the focuser position, green numbers the object's reference number.

One can now visually inspect the focus run images with DS9 image per image together with the results of rts2_autofocus. Green circle mark reference objects, these are objects identified on all images, while yellow circles mark objects which matched the reference image.

The DS9 creates a movie out of the acquired images (best seen with mplayer -xy 2. -speed 0.2 ds9-rts2-autofocus-object-358.mpeg -loop 100 . On this movie you see black and hardly green circles (reference). The radius is the FWHM and the black numbers are the position of the focuser. One sees clearly that SExtractor identifies two different objects as one. More work to do...

rts2-autofocus released (2009-10-25)

Semi independent fit of SExtractor's FWHM and FLUX_MAX.
Independent fit of SExtractor's FWHM and FLUX_MAX.FLUX_MAX has been fitted with a gaussian function.

The script rts2-autofocus inculding an extensive man page has been released to the RTS2 repository. In order to produce more reliable fits a first prototype based on CERN's root data analysis package has be realised (see figure on the right).

Comparing the two fits of FWHM and FLUX_MAX, they have a different minimum, it is clear that there is still much work ahaed. Currently the primary aim of rts2-autofocus is to provide an efficient test bed for sorting out bad ideas :-)).

The fit function for FLUX_MAX in the lower figure on the right is a gaussian, for lack of a better one. The upper figure has been fitted with a alpha/(FWHM- offset)**beta function, where alpha and beta are the fit parameters. FWHM(FOC_POS) is calculated based on the fit of the FWHM curve (blue points).

talk@miyo.obsvermes.loc installed (2009-10-15)

To avoid conflicts using the observatory talk has been installed. See section Observer's_manual Start for details.

Astromatic@vermes (2009-10-14)

Reading the documentation is promising :-)) to set up a data reduction pipeline.

Initial version of (2009-10-11)

The plot.

Heavily based on Martin Jelinek's work I wrote a first version of the Perl program rts2-autofocus. The aim is to have a configurable auto focuser which reads the relevant /etc/rts2/* files. Instead of SExtractor's FWHM FLUX_MAX is used. The program is capable to take data directly from the CCD or provide offline analysis of a focus run for various filters subsequently.

Observatory Vermes in the press (2009-10-01)

The BAA Journal article (J.Br. Astron. Assoc. 119, 5, 2009).The author of the picture is Lukas Zimmermann.

The article about the Workshop on Robotic Autonomous Observatories in the Journal.

The Observatory is operational again (2009-09-27)

The door fully open.
M 52, 300 sec, no guiding.

After replacing the main computer and the installation of the FLI devices the observatory is now operational again. The necessary scripts are now installed on miyo.obsvermes.loc and accessible for the user obs. The documentation has been revised and updated. The upper door switch has been reached but it gave no signal.

Open issues:

  • pl2303 ttyUSB4: pl2303_open - failed submitting interrupt urb, error -28, follow the thread until the end.
  • Therefore the device /dev/stvvideo does not work (ehci related problem)

Later in the evening we could sync the mount with the sky and with a lucky punch (focus position 5000) got an image of M52.

IP9258 INDI driver (2009-09-27)

There is now a new INDI driver available for the IP9258 power switch device.

Door end switches interface, FLI@vermes (2009-09-19)

The Toradex USB IO device (upper left corner).

Today we installed the dome door end switches interface (Toradex), the FLI CCD camera und the main computer miyo is now hooked up with all devices.

FLI CCD back, dT= -59.8 deg (2009-09-18)

The FLI CCD chip.

Measured on the table, cooling: T_amb= 300.62 K (Toradex), CCD_TEMP= -32.562, dT= 62.03, not cooling: T_amb= 300.30 K, CCD_TEMP= 28.5.

AAG cloud sensor RTS2 driver released (2009-09-12)

The role of the AAG cloud sensor with its built in rain detector is to act as a good/bad weather trigger within RTS2.

APC smart UPS integrated with NUT (2009-09-02)

The integration of the APC Smart-UPS 750 RM on hosts obsvermes, miyo, lukalix and RTS2 is done with NUT.

Davis Vantage Pro integrated (2009-08-30)

The Davis Vantage Pro weather station is integrated into RTS2, a small howto describes the necessary steps.

rts2-xmlrpcd FITS preview available (2009-08-30)

RTS2 supports a preview of FITS file through rts2-xmlrpcd, read the introduction. An example reachable via IPSec or from the Internet, is provided if the rts2-xmlrpcd server is running on host miyo.obsvermes.loc (use not konqueror).

Axis camera now available (2009-08-29)

The Axis camera is now available through Obs. Vermes (konqueror does not work, use firefox).

FLI CCD out of order (2009-08-02)

The telescope in maintenance position before removing the Finger Lake Instrumentation devices.

Unfortunately at least the temperature measurement of the FLI Proline PL-16803 is broken.

New main observatory computer (2009-08-02)

Finally we installed the replacement for the old Dell Precision 420 main observatory computer, it is now an Intel Core 2 Duo. We learnt on this occasion that the linux kernel default for a specific serial module is 2. Further details reveals the Serial-HOWTO-16.

Back from Malaga (2009-06-01)

We both participated at the conference Workshop on Robotic Autonomous Observatories, Málaga, Spain, 18-21 May 2009. Many of the presentations are published in the section Program.
A summary can be found soon on the BAA's Instruments and Imaging Section under [1] as well as impressions from the conference (including posters) and of Lukas' travel from and back to Alicante.

Preliminary RTS2 auto focus data reduction (2009-05-03)

Fit to data taken on 2008-12-28, V filter.

This is the very first attempt to obtain the focus from a series of images. The FWHM have been determined by SExtractor, the fit has been carried out with software from Martin Jelinek (foc, foc_x).

Polar alignment revisited (2009-04-26)

The last measurement of the intersection of the hour axis of the AP 1200 GTO mount with the celestial sphere dates back to 2001-09-30. Since then the elevation became smaller and the actual position was measured on 2009-04-14 to be HA= 166.14 degrees and the north polar distance lambda=137.02 arcsec.

The measurement and calculation remained in principle the same but the data reduction became easier due to mainly two reasons: astrometric calibration of the taken images and due to the Hour axis position calculator.

New release AAG cloud sensor software (2009-04-19)

There is a new release of AAG cloud sensor software, see download location.

AAG cloud sensor at the observatory (2009-03-01)

The AAG sensor tentatively mounted outside the dome.

A third Alix embedded systems went into operation on the dome serving the SSD 650V inverter (dome door motor) and the AAG Cloud sensor. Taskit's Portux 920T has been phased out. It is planned to display the values of the AAG Cloud sensor on our observatory web server.
The Davis weather station is in operation again. The ISS main board and the temperature/humidity sensor arrived in late January, hm.

Prototype of a cloud sensor based on a Perkin Elmer TPS534 (2009-02-16)

We completed a prototype of a cloud sensor based on a Perkin Elmer TPS534 with Oak USB ADC board from Toradex. Included is a demonstration software that records the sky emission to a file (see [2]).

INDI driver for AAG cloud sensor available (2009-01-17)

The front panel of the INDI driver.

A first fully working version for the AAG Cloud Watcher is available (see the down load page).

AAG cloud sensor (2009-01-10)

Overview of the AAG cloud, rain and day light sensor.
AAG cloud (right), rain (middle) and day light sensor (left).

The AAG cloud sensor arrived on 2009-01-07. Linux based drivers for INDI and RTS2 are already well under way.

3-axis acceleration sensor to measure HA, DEC and latitude (2009-01-01)

A solution has been developed to measure the hour angle, the direction of the declination axis and the latitude of the hour axis independently. The solution helps

  • to set up an equatorial mount with a higher precission from scratch
  • to decide independently if the declination axis (of a German equatorial mount) is at the position HA+PI/2 or HA-PI/2

The Astro-Physics AP 1200 GTO mount loses occasionally its position and if the startup procedure isn't followed carefully a collission with the pier is guaranteed. The 3-axes acceleration sensor are available from Toradex.

First composite image (2008-12-24)

Messier 42, automatic conversion with gimp
Messier 42, conversion with Imagemagick convert -gamma 2.6.
Messier 42, conversion with Imagemagick convert -gamma 3.4 (U 1200 sec, I 600 sec).

First color filter coposite image: B 1200 sec, V 600 sec , R 600 sec, [left, middle], scaled down to 1024x1024 pixels.

First calibrated image (2008-10-23)

Image with astrometric calibration.

The image (File:CD 20081019-213512-671.fits) has been acquired on 2008-10-19 and calibrated with Aladin using this tutorial

Repairing... (2008-10-18)

The interior (self-emptying tipping-bucket) of the weather station after 3.5 years of continous operation.
The wheel holding the filters.

The humidity sensor failed if the value approached 95%. Now, the voltage measured at the Weather Envoy ist too low (2.5...2.9 V). The out door devices (ISS) do not work.

The nylon screws which hold the filters were too long and blocked the wheel. They touched the enclosure on the (invisible) rear side. Removed about 1 mm and the problem was gone.

USV in operation (2008-09-26)

The USV is now functional, see reports.

Yearly maintenance (2008-08-30)


In addition to the cleaning of the dome we installed the uninterruptable power supply (UPS) and the Alix3c main computer.

RTS-2 Wiki (2008-08-22)

There is now a RTS-2 Wiki for documentation.

It never rains in Vermes

Despite is was cloudy - no rain for more than a month.

Remote control ended partially when one wasp family decided to build its vespiary beneath the rain collector on the now not self-emptying tipping-bucket.

Walti from the nearby manned observatory cleared the housing.

Workshop on autonomous observatories (2008-07-05)

Workshop on astronomical image processing, UCD Dublin, Ireland, 18th - 20th August 2008 R

Data reduction (image pipeline) (2008-06-29)

Added ten 1000 ms shots with shutter closed.The shape is almost Gaussian.

After a lengthy trial with various packages I decided to use AstroROOT for the data reduction. AstroROOT uses root and as a library FITSIO. FTOOLS will be used to manipulate images an headers too.

On the right side a first analysis. Ten frames, each exposed 1000 ms with closed shutter, have been added. In this logarithmic plot a tail on the right side is clearly visible despite it is a small amount of pixels. The main contribution comes from the y lines 857 and 858 (see image below).

Observatory Vermes in the "press" (2008-05-21)

An article titled "Fernsteuerung des Observatoriums Vermes" (remote control of the Observatory Vermes) has been published in the journal Orion (Swiss astronomical society, Schweizerische Astronomische Gesellschaft).

FLI@vermes first light (2008-04-26)

First light M101.
The PDF with the adapter for the 4 inch AP focuser.
The CCD as seen through the front lens.

FLI@vermes (2008-03-23)

The FLI ccd, filter wheel and digital focuser mounted at the telescope.
At work, remotely controlled by Diana.
There is only one screw preventing the detector proving Newton's law. Added a cable tie.

At the observatory any kind and numbers of insects are the native inhabitants - the card board should not allow them to enter the focuser.

FLI@drahtzugstrasse (2008-02-29)

Reduced resolution dark frame of the Finger Lake Instrumentation PL16803 CCD camera (exposure 10 seconds at 0 degree C).

SIMPLE  =                    T / file does conform to FITS standard              
BITPIX  =                   16 / number of bits per data pixel                    
NAXIS   =                    2 / number of data axes                            
NAXIS1  =                 2048 / length of data axis 1                           
NAXIS2  =                 2048 / length of data axis 2                          
EXTEND  =                    T / FITS dataset may contain extensions            
COMMENT   FITS (Flexible Image Transport System) format is defined in 'AstronomyCOMMENT   and Astrophysics', volume 376, page 359; bibcode: 2001A&A...376..359H 
BZERO   =               32768. / DATA ZERO                                      
BSCALE  =                   1. / DATA SCALE                                     
EXPOSURE=                   0. / EXPOSURE IN SECONDS                            
HBIN    =                    2 / HORIZONTAL BIN FACTOR                          
VBIN    =                    2 / VERTICAL BIN FACTOR                            
DATE    = '2008-03-01T08:25:24' / file creation date (YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ss UT)   END

(Remote) control (2008-02-23)

The cause of the failure.

Murphy's law: the cables of the telescope cameras got caught by the useless hook of the woodden STV frame.

Proof of concept: first remote light (2008-01-13)

The central part of M42.

The FITS header

CCD-TEMP=                 5.22 / CCD Temperature (Celcius)                        
EXPOSURE=                  50. / 
Total Exposure Time (ms)                        
PIX-SIZ =                  7.4 / Pixel Size (microns)                            
BINNING = '(2 x 2) '           / Binning HOR x VER                               
FRAME   = 'Light   '           / Frame Type                                      
DATAMIN =                   0. / Minimum value                                   
DATAMAX =               13855. / Maximum value                                   
INSTRUME= 'SBIG STV'           / CCD 
DATE-OBS= '2008-01-13T18:49:42:' / Observing date (YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ss UT        
DATE    = '2008-01-13T21:43:19' / file creation date (YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ss UT)

Dome door remotely operated (2008-01-01)

The door closed.
The door at the "decision point".
The door opening.
The door almost open.