DPS 2001 meeting, November 2001
Session 57. Future Missions and Instruments posters
Displayed, 9:00am Tuesday - 3:00pm Saturday, Highlighted, Saturday, December 1, 2001, 2:00-2:30pm, French Market Exhibit Hall

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[57.02] Automation of the Lowell Observatory 0.8-m Telescope

M.W. Buie (Lowell Observatory)

In the past year I have converted the Lowell Observatory 0.8-m telescope from a classically scheduled and operated telescope to an automated facility. The new setup uses an existing CCD camera and the existing telescope control system. The key steps in the conversion were writing a new CCD control and data acquisition module plus writing communication and queue control software. The previous CCD control program was written for DOS and much of the code was reused for this project.

The entire control system runs under Linux and consists of four daemons: MOVE, PCCD, CMDR, and PCTL. The MOVE daemon is a process that communciates with the telescope control system via an RS232 port, keeping track of its state and forwarding commands from other processes to the telescope. The PCCD daemon controls the CCD camera and collects data. The CMDR daemon maintains a FIFO queue of commands to be executed during the night. The PCTL daemon receives notification from any other deamon of execution failures and sends an error code to the on-duty observer via a numeric pager.

This system runs through the night much as you would traditionally operate a telescope. However, this system permits queuing up all the commands for a night and they execute one after another in sequence. Additional commands are needed to replace the normal human interaction during observing (ie., target acquisition, field registration, focusing). Also, numerous temporal synchronization commands are required so that observations happen at the right time.

The system was used for this year's photometric monitoring of Pluto and Triton and is in general use for 2/3 of time on the telescope. Pluto observations were collected on 30 nights out of a potential pool of 90 nights. Detailed system design and capabilites plus sample observations will be presented. Also, a live demonstration will be provided if the weather is good. This work was supported by NASA Grant NAG5-4210 and the NSF REU Program grant to NAU.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://www.lowell.edu/~buie/automate/. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

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