wiki:HowTo

Version 3 (modified by holtz, 15 months ago) ( diff )

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Running a remote observatory entails some risk; the situation with TMO is not the same as with remote observations at APO, where there is an observing specialist that keeps an eye on the telescope and weather. Please be conservative with TMO.

Note that these directions are related to interactive observing. The observatory also has a robotic observing mode, which may be preferable to use for scientific and other applications.

Issues

Running a remote observatory has its own set of issues. If you notice any issues with TMO while operating please notify Jon and Zach via the email alias issues@… so that we can address it.

If there is an immediate issue that presents potential danger to the telescope, call Zach (TA's should have Zach's phone number) or Jon.

Lat and Long

TMO is located at a latitude of 32°17'35" N (32.293048), a longitude of -106° 41'53" (-106.698056), and an altitude of 1505m (4937ft) MSL.

Weather

Prior to observations, check the weather -

Clear Dark Skies - https://www.cleardarksky.com/c/LCruNMkey.html

Weather Underground - https://www.wunderground.com/hourly/us/nm/las-cruces

Please recall that you are using a remote observatory and are not physically present at the dome/telescope. It can take a significant amount of time to get to the telescope. Please keep this in mind when checking the weather for the night. If, for example, the weather becomes unsafe and the dome refuses to close this could cause serious damage. Don't use the facility if there is a significant risk of precipitation.

If for some reason the dome does not close, position the telescope in the stow position to keep potential precipitation from reaching the mirror. Position the dome so that it points in a different direction than the telescope to make sure sunlight won't go through the telescope. If that's not possible, position the telescope to be pointed somewhere where the Sun can't be (i.e., at high declination).

Connection Information

You can connect to TMO's computer via VNC Viewer - tmo.nmsu.edu - Jon and Zach have have the password for this connection.

Some times the connection can be slow and there is not immediate feedback when you press a button. Only press a button once.

Please Note - VNC uses port 5900 to connect to a computer. If too many people are connected at once, this can cause the connection to run slowly. Make sure you disconnect when done for the night. And if someone else is using TMO please limit the number of connections to what is required. Zach will occasionally go through and kick lingering connections on port 5900 (during the day).

Start Up from an Empty Desktop

We usually keep the desktop set up, however there are times where the desktop might be blank. If you are starting observation from an empty desktop (please inform Zach E of this) and follow these steps:

  • Open FocusMax v4 using the desktop icon
  • Open up MaximDL
  • In MaximDL - click the Observatory Toggle Control (the icon is a little observatory) and click to connect all
  • Open up ACP using the desktop icon.
  • If doing manual observations - in ACP go to both Telescope and Camera to connect both the telescope and camera

Using the webcams

There are two webcams in the dome, one looking at most of the dome (it can be steered), and one looking at the telescope dials. They are accessed using the Internet Explorer (only!) browser at tmocam.nmsu.edu and tmocam-wireless.nmsu.edu. The user is admin.

Use these generously! They have built-in LED lights that you can turn on. These shine at ~8000 A, so can even be on while you are taking exposures, unless you are working in the I band.

If something does not look right in the webcams, stop!

Dome Control

The Dome Control is done via ACP (note, NOT ASCOM Dome Control). In the ACP control box - in the bottom left click the botton - Dome Control to access the controls. Once you open the dome - it will open the dome slit and then slew to the telescope, so beware! Make sure the telescope isn't pointed somewhere you don't want it to be, e.g., in the direction of the Sun!

Slew to an Object

Slewing can be accomplished through the ACP program, which provides a deep sky catalog and various bright stars, or through the Scitech telescope controller. The "Nudge" window in ACP allows you to offset the telescope in any direction.

To go to an object - in the bottom left of the ACP box, click Slew or Sync (catalog). This will bring up an option to allow you to slew the scope to a given object. There are four options:

  • Coordinates (RA and Dec) : note, however, that ACP does not seem to take J2000 coordinates in the slew window. To slew to coordinates, you may need to use the Sidereal Technologies telescope window Goto tab, with the J2000 box checked
  • Deep Sky Object : can be entered by name, but note it ispicky about spacing in Messier and NGC catalog M 44)
  • Major Planet
  • Alignment Star: set of bright stars, you need to know your constellations to know where they are!

Taking exposures

You take exposures manually using MaxIm DL, using the Camera Control window (the icon to the left of the observatory icon). Use the Expose tab, where you can set the filter and the exposure time. The science camera is Camera 1, while the guide camera (no filters) is camera 2. The guide camera is mounted on the 6" finder scope and is pointed in about the same direction as the main scope/camera.

If you just take exposures using Camera 1, they will be unguided. This is probably fine for most observations. If you wish to try autoguiding, use the Guide tab, click the Track button, and start exposing. If the software cannot find a guide star in the guide camera, it may try to guide on noise and may make the image much worse than without guiding.

Scripts

There are several scripts in ACP (for example, auto focus) which can be very useful. These are located in the ACP box in the top right - click on select the script... and it'll open a list of scripts that you can run.

Useful Scripts:

Closing Up for the Night

Make sure that both the dome and the telescope are parked. In the Dome Control window you can simply click "park" and it will tell the dome to go its resting position. In the telescope control box, click "park" and it will do the same for the telescope.

Please visually ensure that both the dome and telescope are parked using the IPCam Client: http://tmocam.nmsu.edu:88/ (Must be used with a window computer, usually Jon and Zach keep a browser opened with the camera. If it asks you for the password, Jon and Zach can provide it).

Potential Problems

When in doubt, consult Zach or Jon and/or stop!

Windows Log-In Screen -Jon and Zach always aim to keep TMO's desktop logged in. If, when you connect via VNC, you notice that its asking for the windows log-in. Please notify Jon and Zach. This indicates the computer has restarted and Zach will need to investigate "why". Ask Jon or Zach and they will log in.

Bad Telescope Connection - This usually happens after the telescope has been sitting for a while without use. If the telescope has a bad connection - you might have to disconnect the telescope in ACP (and possibly MaximDL) and reconnect them. If this doesn't work, you can disconnect everything, then exit out of all the desktop programs then start them back up using the instructions above for starting from an empty desktop.

Dome Stops Follow Scope - this may happen if you are manually operating the telescope and you start controlling the dome separately. It also may happen because the dome drive wheel starts to slip. If this is the case, the wheel may need physical adjustment, and you will need to stop.

Dome pointing in wrong direction - if the dome seems to be lost, you can try to Home it, which moves it until a sensor, whose position is known, is triggered. You can then Unpark/Unhome the dome and see if things are better. But t also may happen because the dome drive wheel starts to slip. If this is the case, the wheel may need physical adjustment, and you will need to stop.

Trailed Images - Possible that images become trailed if there is some balance issue, which may depend on location in the sky. It also might happen if you are trying to autoguide, but the autoguider isn't working well, perhaps because of a faint guide star or intermittent clouds. This can also happen if conditions are poor.

Camera Connected but exposure fail - If the camera is connected but fails at exposing, you might need to power cycle the camera using tmopower2. It is also possible that FocusMax v4 and MaximDL aren't talking correctly - restarting other applications and reconnecting will fix this.

Calibration of AutoGuider

The auto-guider is calibrated using MaximDL. https://cdn.diffractionlimited.com/help/maximdl/Autoguider_Calibration.htm

Image Download

Every two hours the data from TMO is transferred to the astronomy server and can be accessed via the web at http://astronomy.nmsu.edu/tmo/

TIP - You might want to note what time you do the observations to make finding your .fits file easier. When taken with MaxIm DL, the images are automatically named "CCD_Image_NUMBER.fit" which is usually not helpful.

When taken through robotic mode, the images are organized by program and have more meaningful names.

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