Instrumentation

Cloudbait Telescope

The principle instrument is a 250mm aperture, f/7.9 Ritchey-Chr├ętien telescope (GSO RC-10) on a Software Bisque Paramount MYT robotic mount. Guiding is via a ZWO ASI290MM camera on a piggyback 30mm aperture, f/4 guidescope. The primary camera is a QSI660ws-8 CCD with an 8-position filter wheel (open, luminance, red, green, blue, Ha, O3, S2). Focus is managed by an Optec TCF-Si.

The camera operates at a pixel scale of 0.46 arcsec/pixel (normally binned to 0.93 arcsec/pixel) and a FOV of 21.3 arcmin x 17.1 arcmin. The guider operates at 4.95 arcsec/pixel, and typical guiding is around 0.1 pixels, which is less than half of our best seeing conditions.

I have fairly recently started using PixInsight for the bulk of my image processing. For many years I've used Maxim DL for this, but it is really showing its age (and is ridiculously only available as a 32-bit application). While PixInsight has some conceptual design issues I consider questionable, there is no doubt that it is vastly more powerful than Maxim for image processing, utilizes much more modern algorithms, and does not require a subscription to maintain the latest version.

In some cases I use FITS Liberator or DS9 to achieve precise transfer functions. Final processing is usually in Photoshop.

Equipment Plan Overview

The instruments on the pier all connect back to a local, rack mounted PC at the pier base. Signals are either routed through the MYT's integrated USB hub, or through dedicated cables passing through the MYT axes. All cabling moves rigidly with the scope. I had a number of problems with leakage currents damaging the mount electronics, so all the USB signals pass through galvanic isolators.

AC power is supplied to all the instruments from a network controlled power bar.

Because the observatory is located some distance from the control room, the network connection to the pier is optical. In the past I have occasionally lost network connected devices at the pier following nearby lightning strikes.

The observatory is operated using a Remote Desktop connection (typically from the control room) to the observatory PC.