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The next eshine telescope

Design ideas and tests for a new generation of automatic earthshine telescope

What did we learn from the first try?

Some ideas

Pointing Posted on Fri, February 20, 2015 15:17:57

Small RPi-based telescope w. Canon lens in a small alt-az mount driven by steppermotors. All data access done via WiFi.

Power transfer to rotating base done via 6mm ‘stereo jack’ as axis.

Notes from HGL

Automation Posted on Thu, November 13, 2014 08:15:54

Hans worked on getting various bits of the system to move without having to use LabView, and has managed to get the FW moving using the LV system as is, to turn on power for the FW, and then using ThorLabs software and a USB cable to move the FWs from a laptop. Recall that when we use the LV software to move the filters they move – but switch to ‘something else’ right after. Hans goes on to summqrize a plan for the way forward:

Slutsatsen är att filter-hjulen fungerar att köra från Windows.
Man måste bara kunna slå på reläet i boxen. Jag vet nu
HUR man slår på strömmen, även om jag inte förstår helt
VARFÖR det fungerar.

För att komma vidare:

1) Kan man köra Uniblitz frontshutter från en PC? Jag är rätt
säker på att det går. Front-shutter triggas av en “driver” som
sitter i en av “Schroff”-boxarna. Denna triggas av att en spänning
läggs på en kontakt, vilket PXIn gör via ett relä. Men jag har
ju ett relä som styrs via USB direkt från en dator. Med rätt
spänning på finns det inget skäl att det inte skulle fungera.

2) Vad med iris-bländaren strax efter front-shuttern?
Vilket fabrikat är det: Uniblitz också? Isåfall borde det
också gå att styra från en PC.

3) Jag är ganska säker på att Andor-kameran går att köra från en
PC om vi flyttar över PCI-kortet. Men kameran triggar bländaren,
och styr-enheten till bländaren sitter i skåpet. Går det att styra
från PC? Beror på vilket fabrikat det är: också Uniblitz?

4) Styrning av fokusmekanism och knivmekanism är det mest
komplicerade. Det kan vara så att vi måste ha kvar PXIn för
att klara detta.

En lösning skulle kunna se ut så här:

1) Vi skaffar en stationär PC med PCI-kortplats, och flyttar över
styrning av mount, frontshutter, front-iris, ThorLabs-filter, och
kamera. Alltt detta utan att vi bryter upp det stora racket i delar.

2) När allt detta fungerar, så bestämmer vi om vi ska dela upp det
stora racket i delar. Steg för steg monterar vi ur PXIn, raden med
Schroff-boxar, servo-förstärkaren, Internet-switchen. Detta steg är
nog oåterkalleligt.

Förr eller senare måste vi göra oss av med skåpet. Jag tror att det
är klokt att starta nu och långsamt, steg för steg, flytta över funktioner
till en PC.

Jag har tänkt genom varför vi överhuvudtaget har en PXI
istället för en vanlig dator. LabView kan ju köra på en vanlig PC,
så det är inte det som är skälet. Jag tror att den enda anledningen
är att köra motorerna till kniv- och fokus-mekanismerna, och att
kunna få tillbaka signaler om positioner. Man har valt motorer
från National Aperture Inc. som drivs av en servo-förstärkare, som
i sin tur drivs av PXI-kortet som heter “Motion Control”.

Allt annat borde fungera från en vanlig PC. Jag tror t.o.m. att vi
kan installera LabView på en vanlig PC och kunna använda många
av funktionerna i Engineering Mode. Allt utom det som är relaterat
till motorerna går ju via helt vanliga COM-portar.


Automation Posted on Tue, November 11, 2014 15:51:26

This software to ‘automatically’ control a whole observatory exists: ACP link
It costs about $1000 and you need Maxim DL (at $200). You get support.

Effect of broad filters

Optics Posted on Wed, October 29, 2014 13:13:51

Using modelling of the Sun-Earth-Moon system it is possible to show that there will be an airmass-dependency in the derived terrestrial albedo. This is due to extinction being colour-dependent and the presence of spectral slopes. The BS is more red than the DS so extinction will relatively influence the DS more than the BS. In monochromatic light the DS and BS would be affected identically by extinction. As our method depends on modelling the DS/BS flux ratio we must either model that colour dependency in the extinction, or correct for the effect with traditional Langley plots of -2.5 log10 (Albedo) vs airmass.

The challenge in modelling the effect is to make avilable wavelength dependent lunar albedo maps and apply them appropriately for the DS and BS individually. LRO maps are wavelength dependent, but correctly representing the colour of the DS and BS seems a bit on the difficult side since we are at the very least dealing with a variable-colour DS.

With narrow filters the problem is less.

This implies that a better future system ought to be based on narrow filters – or on spectroscopy?

It also seems to imply that there will be a signal from terrestrial albedo in the slopes of albedo against airmass. So, when all data are fitted, look for an Albedo vs slope-of-Albedo-vs-airmass relationship.

Non-mechanical filter system

Optics Posted on Sat, October 25, 2014 09:02:43

It appears possible to have a variable filter that has no moving parts. It is done with liquid crystals and commands over an rs232 cable:

The specs show that you can have a selectable filter from the blue into the NIR – but not in one device. The stability of the ability to dial up a specific filter needs to be investigated. Papers have used this device, such as this one.

The transmittance is low compared to glass, but with a moon that bright, who cares!!!

Scattered light in the filter could be an issue.

Highly sensitive to polarisation — one could make that a feature?

Filter stability would be the other issue — would they change transmission characteristics on long term (year) time scales?

Chris comments:

the transmittance is low compared to glass, but with a
moon that bright, who cares!!!

scattered light in the filter could be an issue.

highly sensitive to polarisation I see — one could make
that a feature?

filter stability would be the other issue — would they
change transmission characteristics on long term (year) time scales?

infrared and optical handled differently, so two would be
needed — could lead to calibration issues…

New KE and optics

Optics Posted on Sat, April 26, 2014 17:41:09

Many of the complexities and problems with the present SKE could be avoided by replacing it with a fixed KE. The orientation problem is solved by making the KE in the form of a plate with a sharp-edged hole in – behind some part of the edge of that hole the Moon could always be parked so that just the DS peeked out.

The present size of the Moon on the CCD is a bit too big for this to work. We need to understand which part of the system to rebuild in order to get the Moon to be smaller (perhaps 50% smaller) on the same CCD – or perhaps to get a bigger CCD. The present system is ‘short’ which means that the edges of the field and the centre have problems being in focus at the same time, so a larger CCD would have worse problems (but the worst affected areas would be behind the mask!)

Sigma SD10 bias frames

CCD Posted on Sun, December 08, 2013 07:53:50

We have received help with the software that extracts images from the Sigma SD10 X3F files. These are RAW files packaged in a special way. The software is ‘x3f_extract’, provided at by Roland Karlsson. The code can be downloaded at

A small modification of the code is needed to avoid ‘clipping’ of pixel values below the mean of the bias level. The modification must be introduced into the source file and then code must be recompiled. The code to modify is inside the ‘src’ directory that is built when you download all the source files from proxel. Inside the code ‘x3f_io.c’ go to the routine “huffman_decode_row” and find the line:

uint16_t c[3] = {0,0,0}, c_fix[3];

comment it out and exchange it with:

uint16_t c[3] = {100,100,100}, c_fix[3];

Then go one level up and run ‘make’.

I did the above and took some dark frames that I averaged in the half-median-half-mean way, in each pixel. I generated row and column sums of these dark frames and got this:

The structure is low, actually, at the 1 count level.

With this fix of the x3f_extract code we have no longer a ‘strange clipping’ problem and the SD10 can be used for astrophotography – the point being that when its internal IR filter is removed and a red filter i used over the lens we have in effect a camera able to perform VE1 and VE2 band photometry in one shot, without any moving parts. We have yet to do the image manipulations required to reduce the images obtained in the R G and B channels to R G and IR values – but that will happen.

SKE alternatives

Optics Posted on Sun, November 10, 2013 12:16:52

It is probably necessary to have that SKE – it leaves a remnant halo, but the intensity of this is very much lower than the halo you get with our co-add technique. Our SKE never worked and I wonder how a potential future one could be constructed?

One alternative could be these ‘Digital Mirror Devices (DMDs)’ which are essentially a adressable semiconductor matrix of little mirrors. The whole things is like a CCD in size but each element can be tipped to one side or the other, thus deflecting light. If one of those devices sat in the prime focus of an objective we could first take an image of the Moon, find the pixels that needed their light deflected, and then address those only and send their light off to one side, thus obtaining a sort of dynamic SKE. Mechanical SKEs still have to be positioned, which I think caused the death of our system – too many motors with dodgy systems for measuring the turning angle, timeouts that never got their timeout and so on.

A DMD array could be fixed in place and operated with software only. Apparently DMDs are evolving fast and in 2014 some kits for experimenting, by Texas Instruments, will come out. The Kits are supposedly some hundreds of dollars.

They need to be driven by something, and here is a driver board (for $210):

We need to get one of these – with some small pot of money to be raised by sale of stuff from the MLO system (when we decide to do that) – or a small proposal.

Such a DMD undoubtedly has its own PSF and that needs to be tested.

The DMDs have a ‘fill factor’ of about 90% – so an issue is what happens to the remaining 10%. Is it diffusely scattered or is it cast in another direction? Apparently there are three states to a DMD pixel – left, off and right, where the left and right states position the light at +/- 14 degrees. The Off state is to be understood.

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