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Update on the GLP Observatory.

 
SHRModerator
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09/21/2011 02:05 AM

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Update on the GLP Observatory.
Since some of you have been asking and we have a lot of new people here that might not even know anything about it, I thought I would write a general "Where we are at" with the Observatory thread.

So...to start with, a short background...

About 6 months ago we embarked on the Observatory project. The initial concept was to put together a telescope rig that we could remote control and stream live video and send astrophotography type images up to the Internet. Trinity agreed to finance it and we began discussing how to get this done. It began as a fairly small single scope/camera project really, but as we saw what it would take to really do what he had in his vision of this?....whoa boooy it grew fast into a multi-scope and dedicated imaging systems setup...along with a dedicated facility which we do have now.

I designed the building along with Trin's input and it was no simple run of the mill structure like a shed in any way, shape or form, it couldn't be! I installed most of the mechanical workings and we have done trouble shooting together as we have gone along. Crews came in to do the concrete work, framing and electrical under our supervision and I played cleanup batter on the framing and build and built a few of more not off the shelf sections of the building itself. We have both been involved with the hands on work since the beginning and of course all the donations received later on were a big help so a lot of you got your own skin in it too, which everyone very much appreciates.

The Observatory is a 3 bay, 6 telescope, multi-cam, multi computer...multi just about everything, it's own separate "control room" free standing 3 dome first class observatory now. It has 3 distinct observing functions.

1) Solar Observation. 2 Meade Coronado dedicated solar viewing telescopes. The lenses are a special hydrogen alpha filter system designed specifically for viewing the sun. Those are mounted side by side on a fully computerized Celestron CGE-PRO Equatorial mount. Mounted in Bay 1 with a completely automated "small" 8 foot diameter dome that rotates sync'd with the scope rig and is fully operational via remote user access from it's own dedicated computer. This scope rig uses live high resolution video.

2) Lunar and Planet observing. 14" Celestron pro Schmidt Cassegrain telescope also on a CGE-PRO mount. Same 8ft dome, all fully remote controlled and automated. This scope uses a larger high-res video system for live streaming due to it's larger size.

3) Deep space imaging. 20" Meade SCT mounted on a Meade "Max Mount" fully computerized EQ mount. Imaging is a different world than "Live video" and this system has the "mega" imagers that can suck up light which is not visible to the human eye, even through the scope, and this is the scope we use to take longer duration images of nebula, spiral galaxies and those deep space objects...it's like a baby Hubble. It really is a huge scope and mount and it's world class in astronomyland and in fact few people own this scope or a scope of it's caliber. This is under "the big dome" which is 11 feet in diameter.

The rest )...the observatory has it's own dedicated "control room" with computers for each scope bay, climate control as it is appropriate, each bay is loaded with web cams to "watch the scopes", weather sensors and tons more misc "stuff"... and we STILL have more cool gear to install!...like a full sky camera.

It really is an amazing "Machine" more than anything else and it has provided us many challenges along the way as some of you know. That of course is an inevitable thing in dealing with such a complex mechanism such as this.....so with that background into the observatory itself for those who didn't know, let me update everyone as to where we are "at" now and some of what it took to get here...

I had to go back and search Trinity's threads to see what date we actually began.....lol...I sort of had the idea that it was about 6 months, but then I said to myself...nahhh...waaaay too much has been done...well it has been almost exactly 6 months since we broke ground. It's quite a feat IMO to get here from a patch of dirt and nothing else....and that's just the build...the procuring of everything was also a lot of work.

So....as of right now the entire facility as far as structure is built and done. The domes themselves proved to be problematic. Simply put they are large Poly(plastic) domes. We made this choice of material because they are much more UV resistant than fiberglass and take much less to maintain as far as weathering goes. Because of that they are also more flexible and as far as the build quality went on those?...well it was pretty shitty. I had to fuss tweak shim add a ton of little ramp style plastic "transition" blocks all over anything that moved in them, cut material away and generally refit about everything just to get them working smoothly at all. The makers are pretty decent roto-molders I'd say, but when it came to fit form and function?...they sucked.

One major move that we had to make mechanically on the "big dome" was to completely change how the doors operated. This dome is the first one this molder has ever produced and it's more or less a prototype. This was a problem from the start in the configuration to accommodate the lift motors to open them. Simply put they were on out of the correct order and created a situation where they were never going to be completely water proof...not by Florida requirements in any case. So that required moving them and scraping the motor/cable lift system that was stock and frankly IMO sucked from the start. I had squeezed every last drop out of what the maker intended and improved his system quite a bit and it STILL was suspect and never really operated very smoothly when it did function...it also periodically would tangle a cable line and become a jammed up mess, it did that on more than one occasion...so we made the decision to correct the doors for good by removing and remounting them and replacing the entire cable lift system with a new motor mount and go with a completely different type of drive. We did that last time I was up and the last few pieces I will install the next time I up as there were a few things I have to custom make to fit after the motor system was mounted. The doors are back on and moving as they should be now after installing new stops, skid blocks as were required to make it all function and thankfully there are now zero leaks which was an issue in the original setup. So that whole mess of a large dome is just about put to bed now.

The automation systems for the domes which make all these motors operate remotely?...well now that is whole other story...Started out something like this...I am in the observatory in the domes shoving things around getting the motors mounted and going etc, trin is inside bench firing the automation electronics for the first time...so he comes over to me and says..."These things are fucking worthless bro...OMG they are total pieces of shit!" So we do the obligatory.."look at this shit".."wtf is this, are they serious?"...so me?...well I think I can make just about anything work as long as it's brain isn't fried. If it's shitty build quality or just a bad idea to go left, we can go right on whatever problem and I could deal with it. For a lab type setting, pretty isn't really needed so as long as it has a pulse, which is the software and electronics...it'll be made to work one way or another ....so then I get the Bad News..."Oh no man, the Software is EVEN WORSE"...Trin is like the software guy and I am like the hardware guy and we both do electronics and have...so me I am out of my element there on the software, but this is Trin's element...so me...."uuuhhhh...is it like....REALLY bad?"..."OMG you cannot believe HOW bad...I'm going to give this guy a few days to do something, but I doubt he'll be able after looking at his bullshit and if he can't?...we're going to have to find another way..." Pretty much as bad as it gets and I could tell by how he was saying it that we were most likely going to be finding another way...and that's just how it played out...minus some gory details of "communication" with the "automation guy" and the "Dome guy"...in short...they got fired.

So we search down another dome automation company and see if they can adapt their "way more pro" system to fit our domes and motors...they say YES they can...so those systems get ordered and in a month from then...we should be good to go, bolt on in a few hours and off we go...woo hooo!...lol....sounds easy...but of course...it never is...

So we get the three new sets of automation gear and I setup to install as per their specs....so we notice a couple things that the manufacturers apparently didn't count on in their "adaptation"...one being half the parts to control the doors weren't there by our check out...so we call the manufacturer and they think about it for a bit...and they agree...yes we're gonna need more boxes, sorry bout that one guys, first build on this system...so they get us the needed parts overnight and we're going again...almost...after another...well this ain't gonna work like this...wtf?...we figure we're pretty much on our own again and we're gonna have to "Make it work" because this is the first time these new pro-automation guys have ever done this type of dome...but at least their software seems good and we are in communication with the domes, leaps and bounds above the first system. We have had to trouble shoot and track some very much buried "issues" with these automation systems....let me emphasis VERY BURIED, but as of my last trip up to the observatory?...I think we may have the last of the serious glitches ironed out and the last hiccup was a royal bitch to trace down, but we did it.

Apparently the general theme in amateur astronomy is "You make it work", do what it takes and it might get a little fugly. As one person who we got in touch with that has dealt with these same domes, automation systems and even one of the same scope mounts and overcame "most" of the problems he ran into?..."when "they" say amateur astronomy?...it AIN'T YOU they are talking about, it's the makers of this gear, it's ALL Amateur!"....so we have done just about all the smoothing out of the many bumps and grinds in these 3 domes and that has been ongoing the whole time.

So about a month and half ago we are just about ready to run with automation engaged. We go to light up the big scope and plug in the coords for comet elenin. I had just returned for another 2 week stay to do work....I was hoping to get some clear nights to get some imaging time in and we do!.....light up the Big 20" and one of the motors in the huge mount is a dead stick...we go through everything...reflash the scopes brain, change every cable, swap them off, trouble shoot everything and one motor is a dead unit....there is no denying it...of course it's under warranty so we call Meade, tell them all we have checked and done and they say it's got to be sent in for service...thay are more than happy to repair, just ship it over to california...

Well that is easier said than done...it's a freaking huge 700lb unit that is about 7ft tall assembled...up inside a huge dome...that we put in it's home with a boom fork lift...a big one...but there is no denying it and no choice...it had to come out. So on my last trip to the observatory that is just what we did...rented the big lift, strapped and rigged the big scope and flew it out of there. I broke down the mount, crated the drive sections and shipped them to Meade for service. That was when we took advantage of the down time...and the bigass boom lift to do the door refit....a huge disappointment that this very expensive piece of equipment broke down, but it can and does happen. It should be repaired and returned soon...hopefully.

Sooo...we still have the planet scope to use. I am doing my "punch list" of other things to get done. I turn on the planet scope after some days there and....the spins wildly and is out of control, crazy brain...shut down, reboot...same..swap out hand controllers, same...OMG not these fuckin motors too...reflash it's brain...same...it's the fuckin motors...say it ain't so...I swap the control feed over to the sun scopes...and it ain't the motors...it's the entire electronics pier which contains the motor drives and all the electronics that tell the motors what to do...because with it connected?...sunscope goes crazy brain too...at least this control is a mere 20lb unit that I don't need the crane for...but after contacting celestron it also has go to factory for warranty service...another huge let down...so this brings us to the current date.

We have both the large scopes out for factory service...most if not all of the bugs are muscled out of the domes and if things go according to plan?...we will coordinate their return, get the crane lift again and fly them back into place, re-align them and be back to imaging on them with the domes operating via full computer remote control.

I wanted to take the time to give all you guys a detailed progress report and update on where we are and what we have done. What I did write about, as long as even this thread is, is probably 1/50th of the detail in what we have actually done. This observatory is a very complicated machine and as far as we know it's the first one of it's kind, in any case it is certainly one of kind and it's unique in many aspects. Trinity and I both realize that there can often be a lot of impatience, that is understandable...especially when it's something as badass cool as this is...trust me when I tell you WE want to USE it as much as anyone does....maybe more!...lol. We've done some imaging, some video is up on the streaming channel, but what we have done to date is nowhere NEAR what this observatory is capable of!

So to that?...hang in there guys, it's going to be up soon and if we didn't have these breakdowns along with the things we had to make work, not to mention all the parts that are custom made, it would be running now....this is far from being a "plug n' play" venture in anyone's imagination.

It's been six months almost exactly to today..we've come a LONG way in that time. This is one amazing project and no one can know that more than us who have worked at it since the beginning. It hasn't been easy, but anything truly amazing never is...

I know you all are going to be amazed too...

Last Edited by SHR on 09/21/2011 02:10 AM
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Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:14 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
up before October 16th??
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:15 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
Will this be ready by 2012?
SHRModerator (OP)
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09/21/2011 02:16 AM

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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
up before October 16th??
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 1548834


Depending on the turn around time from the factories I should think so. Why...is there something going down that week?....forgive me if I cannot follow all the latest space doom...lol!
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Ooooh, see the fire is sweepin' Our very streets today...
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Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:20 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
nice work bud!
Anonymous Coward
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Denmark
09/21/2011 02:24 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
Amazing! The amount of time and effort put into this project :D now that's commitment! :)
And it is appreciated hf
Sending some positive vibes so you guys might encounter less friction :p
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:24 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
Whoa!!! Thx for the thorough update , SHR! I can't even imagine the frustration ya'll have been and are going through...

hf and hugs of encouragement... I have confidence the end product will exceed all our expectations... well, we can hope! :)

cheers
SHRModerator (OP)
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09/21/2011 02:26 AM

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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
nice work bud!
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 1559040


Thanks man!...I've spent more time on the last rung of 8ft step ladders installing things in the last 6 months than I have in 6 years!...lol...Trinity has too...he's gotten "in there" working on just about everything with all of us. Setting 30lb counterweights to balance the "little" scopes perched up inside a 14ft ceiling dome has been a bit harrowing at times...!
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Ooooh, see the fire is sweepin' Our very streets today...
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War, children, it's just a shot away...it's just a shot away....
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:26 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
up before October 16th??
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 1548834


Depending on the turn around time from the factories I should think so. Why...is there something going down that week?....forgive me if I cannot follow all the latest space doom...lol!
 Quoting: SHR


Elenin will be closest to the earth on that day.
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09/21/2011 02:26 AM

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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
Amazing! The amount of time and effort put into this project :D now that's commitment! :)
And it is appreciated hf
Sending some positive vibes so you guys might encounter less friction :p
 Quoting: miodminds


Thanks, we'll take it!
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Ooooh, see the fire is sweepin' Our very streets today...
Burns like a red coal carpet, Mad bulls lost the way...
War, children, it's just a shot away...it's just a shot away....
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:29 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
SHR, thanks for your work, patience and dedication to the Observatory. It'll come together, you'll see.
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:30 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
Same goes for you, Trin....you'll get there. :-)
SHRModerator (OP)
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09/21/2011 02:31 AM

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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
Whoa!!! Thx for the thorough update , SHR! I can't even imagine the frustration ya'll have been and are going through...

hf and hugs of encouragement... I have confidence the end product will exceed all our expectations... well, we can hope! :)

cheers
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 455519


There's always going to be things that must get worked out in a project of this size and complexity, that is to be expected, but we definitely have come up against a lot of things we never could have expected or even should have had to deal with, but we have dealt with them.

This whole project is incredible.
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Ooooh, see the fire is sweepin' Our very streets today...
Burns like a red coal carpet, Mad bulls lost the way...
War, children, it's just a shot away...it's just a shot away....
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:32 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.

Apparently the general theme in amateur astronomy is "You make it work", do what it takes and it might get a little fugly.

 Quoting: SHR


ultimately, the appeal of it one would think....

anyways, the term 'amateur' may apply in the strictest of definitions, but from what i seen, the 'production' and construction were as 'pro' as it gets....

the pictures worth a thousand words....
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:33 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
hf

Top thread mate, and thanks for the hard work.
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:33 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
Wow!!! SHR...you had a couple of grammatical errors in your update. I think I should call BS on this.


ROFL.

Thanks for the info. You guys rock.
stormer

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09/21/2011 02:34 AM

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Great effort guys...keep up the good work.
alien
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery - Bob Marley
SHRModerator (OP)
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09/21/2011 02:35 AM

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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
Great update bro..

Thanks for making the thread on this and keeping the people informed

and of course thanks for your help on this project!!!

It absolutely could not have been done without you!
 Quoting: ^TrInItY^


You are very welcome bro and THANK YOU for having me with you on this and for being the force behind it!...without you the observatory never would have even been started much less anywhere near done!.
____________________________________________________
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Ooooh, see the fire is sweepin' Our very streets today...
Burns like a red coal carpet, Mad bulls lost the way...
War, children, it's just a shot away...it's just a shot away....
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:35 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
up before October 16th??
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 1548834


Depending on the turn around time from the factories I should think so. Why...is there something going down that week?....forgive me if I cannot follow all the latest space doom...lol!
 Quoting: SHR


By the time yall get that damned thing on line doom will already be upon us. i suspect yall don't want us to see whats really there, I knew it, it's a CONSPIRACY

cruise
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:36 AM
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I just hope that all the retarded shills will now STFU with their you screwd this and that out off people, there is no scopes blah blah blah.
Csider702
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09/21/2011 02:36 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
Hey Trinity, my offer still stands for decal signage if you'd like any for the observatory. Let me know as I don't think I'm able to log in to Csider702 anymore. I will do this again for free as an appreciation for the site and your hard work on the observatory.
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:39 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
Great update bro..

Thanks for making the thread on this and keeping the people informed

and of course thanks for your help on this project!!!

It absolutely could not have been done without you!
 Quoting: ^TrInItY^


You are very welcome bro and THANK YOU for having me with you on this and for being the force behind it!...without you the observatory never would have even been started much less anywhere near done!.
 Quoting: SHR


I for one was very enthusiastic about the project and wondered what happened with it. Would be awesome to be able to see what the fuck were talking about with all of these space doom phenomenon like solar flares, CME's , supernovas and rogue planets. Sounds like yall put together a pretty damned good setup to me, now you need to get the most out of it by hiring someone who has experience with all of the equipment.
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:40 AM
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Wondered what happened to that thing.

Chin up. Winter observations are the best!
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:40 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
Why no pics?

I don't mean to be an ass, but with anyone else we'd say 'Pics or it never happened'.


Moreover, I just wanna see the progress. I was hoping to see the whole project over a time lapse or something.

I am damn excited to see it up&running.

Is there a way to donate without buying a subscription? I wanted to donate to GLP anyway, but I don't really care for a subscription.
d1k

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09/21/2011 02:41 AM

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wow...can we get pics, sounds like a crazy setup.
Jennifer

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09/21/2011 02:42 AM
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Thank you.
I have not failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that don't work ~ Thomas Edison
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:43 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
Why no pics?

I don't mean to be an ass, but with anyone else we'd say 'Pics or it never happened'.


Moreover, I just wanna see the progress. I was hoping to see the whole project over a time lapse or something.

I am damn excited to see it up&running.

Is there a way to donate without buying a subscription? I wanted to donate to GLP anyway, but I don't really care for a subscription.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 1498581


There were a lot of pics posted during the construction. i think they ran into a bit of difficulty getting it all to work right and so put it on the back burner
Anonymous Coward
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United States
09/21/2011 02:47 AM
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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.
Why no pics?

I don't mean to be an ass, but with anyone else we'd say 'Pics or it never happened'.


Moreover, I just wanna see the progress. I was hoping to see the whole project over a time lapse or something.

I am damn excited to see it up&running.

Is there a way to donate without buying a subscription? I wanted to donate to GLP anyway, but I don't really care for a subscription.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 1498581


There were a lot of pics posted during the construction. i think they ran into a bit of difficulty getting it all to work right and so put it on the back burner
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 1129078


Link? I'm into construction.. I'd like to see the pics.
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:47 AM
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Is it Sabotage??
Anonymous Coward
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09/21/2011 02:48 AM
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must feel great having the ability/finance in this day and age to spend thousands on pet projects like this
SHRModerator (OP)
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09/21/2011 02:48 AM

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Re: Update on the GLP Observatory.

Apparently the general theme in amateur astronomy is "You make it work", do what it takes and it might get a little fugly.

 Quoting: SHR


ultimately, the appeal of it one would think....

anyways, the term 'amateur' may apply in the strictest of definitions, but from what i seen, the 'production' and construction were as 'pro' as it gets....

the pictures worth a thousand words....
 Quoting: Sugarelf


Well this has been a general theme since the beginning really..whenever we called one of the suppliers about anything we always seemed to get something like, "Well just cut that down some, or shim this up some" "Ok so yeah, just take a piece of aluminum and cut a shape like that and then install it there."...uh yeah I just happen be a machinist and have a machine shop, but what would happen if we didn't?...shrugs....

Even one the dehumidifiers had a bad humidistat in it...brand new out of the box. Trin took the unit apart, jumped the humidistat and it started to run...so we call the manufacturer and they seemed completely unfazed that we disassembled their machine, traced down a bad integral electronic component and needed another one to istall....many times we looked at each other after doing whatever we had to do and said, "What kind of Joe regular guy can DO ALL THIS SHIT?"...I have an entire machine shop to use and 30+ years experience!...lol...we both can handle a meter and a ton of the "bugs" we found would have most amateur types dead in the water for a month each.

It hardly phases us anymore!...lol...
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Ooooh, see the fire is sweepin' Our very streets today...
Burns like a red coal carpet, Mad bulls lost the way...
War, children, it's just a shot away...it's just a shot away....

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