MAS Observatory
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                                       Click on Images to Enlarge

South Drop Down...

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This drop down has hidden hinges beneath the clapboard, so that the observatory still appears to be just another Maine "shed".  As can be seen, this will allow us to photograph those southern constellations with all their treasures.  This will be a great area for the Tak 106, e.g., taking wide field views near the heart of our galaxy in Sagittarius.  In order to eliminate as much ambient light as possible, this will kept in a closed position most of the time and, therefore, we're going to put a separate control on the drop down. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Trolley and Auto-Stop....

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Although difficult to see, the automatic stops are visable.  Most of these engines are designed to move a specific distance and then stop. The roof, however, goes beyond the general limits and therefore the "stops" were added and the distance regulating "cams" were disengaged.  This system also allows us to open the roof beyond then north end by about 2 feet, which may come in handy when observing northward. Along with the southern drop down, we feel our views will be great.
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Meade in Place:  RCOS-16 Not Here Yet....

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This is the first photo of the Meade robotic system in place.  The same basic prinipals will be applied to the Paramount ME/RCOS-16 system, when it arives.  Visable is the 12" GPS LX200 with a piggy back Tak 106 refractor, on the Pier-Tech II in the lowered position.  The system can be run locally or from an office (no more walking through the snow in the winter).  At star parties, guests can control the computer in the office (which is directly hooked up to all the telescopes systems) by using an observatory computer which can connect (and therefore run) the office computer through a router and XP Professional software (thanks to John Smith !!).  After working out a few computer bugs, the system works perfectly. 
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Awaiting the "trolley" style opener...

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The outside is nearly comlplete.  The Southern drop down can be seen on the right.  My daughter, center, has finally shown some interest in my hobbie (it lasted about 2 minutes). For some reason she thinks my hobbie is "wierd".  We've decided on a "trolley" type system to open to roof.  It is a 1/2 horsepower system built for outdoor or indoor use, with remote settings and safeties available.  It looks sturdy and those who will be putting it in ("Bob's Overhead Doors" in Sabattus, Maine) have done so many times (a big plus if there are any problems).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Nickel Coated Trolley Chain....

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This was a  nice touch by Bob of Bobs Overhead Doors.  The chain is nickel plated and therefore essentially rust proof.  Parts of the chain are exposed to the weather and over time rust would have been a problem.  As this chain moves it pulls the "trolley", which in turn is attached to the roof.  Again, we would advise spending a little extra money and having an expert do this.  And if anything fails, you'll have someone who can help with the solution.
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Pier-Tech II in the Up Position...

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With the Pier-Tech II in the Up position we were literally able to see over the sides of the 7 foot building.  Although the full heigth will rarely be needed we have found to ability to raise and lower the telescope is great for viewing purposes.  Importantly, there was no observable difference in alignment with the Pier-tech in an up or down position (see the Pier-tech site for John Smith's studies on the remarkable accuracy of this device).  Note the sonotube in the foreground, just waiting for then RC-16 !!
 
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The Basic Trolley System.....

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There's quite a bit to point out here.  The first is to find a garage door specialist in your area, someone who will enjoy an unusual project.  Our final design was a commercial water-proof system (Liftmaster; Model EGJ: "jackshaft carwash opener".  Details of the model can be found at  www.liftmaster.com ).  We used the "optional through-shaft" configuration (described in the manual).  The opener pulls a standard "trolley" attached to the roof, which rolls on the 2" wheels.  We disabled the timed  "stop" points, as they weren't reliable enough.  Instead our system has automatic water tight servo's at the fully "closed" and fully "open" positions (and "back up' hard stops {heavy duty bolts), so that the roof can not just roll off the building if the automatic stops fail).  The system works flawlessly, locally and remotely.  Weatherproof remote light and infrared cameras (not shown) were installed (looking inside and from the outside) so that the position of the telescope can be seen, and more importantly, so we can be positive no children are in the area when opening the roof.
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Complete and Remotely Functional...

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The complete control system.  The gears are "stepped down" for maximum torque.  In fact, we could have set it to a faster opening speed (it worked just fine).  However, more torque and less speed is a safer combination.  The two "conduits" coming out of the right side of the control box go to the automatic "stops".  The rope is a disconnect device so we can open the roof in case of mechanism failure.  A casing is being made to cover the gears (safety issue, especially with children at the star parties).  
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Time to Work Out the Bugs...

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The system is now fully up and running.  First "ccd" light with the robotic system has not yet accured, but will soon.  Working withn the LX200 will allow us to learn to use this system and hopefully make the transition to the Paramount ME/RC-16 a litle less difficult.  It is hard to put into words how exciting it is to go from a hole in the ground to a fully functional robotic observatory.  Every conceivable function, from opening the roof, to alignment, focusing and imaging, can be accomplished from a quiet office 150 feet away. More on the details of the computerized/robotic system in the near future. 
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