Observatory Technology

The technology deployed at the observatory is always evolving, as new needs and new systems capability arise. The volunteer team works closely with the New Milford School System staff to make sure we have the latest technology and are in compliance with the school system policies for network management, security, and appropriate use.

Currently there are three main user computers in regular use: one for telescope and camera control, one for administration, and one for education, image manipulation, simulators, etc.  These are all tied via a gigabit network to a VMWare server that has four terabytes of RAID storage used for archiving and large image files. In addition, there is a laptop for mobile teaching purposes, supporting our “Astronomy To Go” program  for visiting regional schools. Wifi capability is also available throughout the facility

Accurate time management is an imperative for astronomical science, so it receives strong attention at this Observatory. We are currently implementing a new time management system using “Free BSD” on  a custom computer system with best-in-class real time operational control capability. This will be linked to our rooftop GPS receiver and will ultimately keep all the JJMO systems time-synchronized to an accuracy well beyond 1/1,000th of a second.

Accurate current weather information is captured and stored from a Davis weather station, and it is displayed on the observatory website, along with a “Clear Sky Chart” that predicts cloud conditions,  seeing conditions, and atmosphere transparency for two days. We have found it to be a very useful guide for observation event planning. We also have a registered New Milford weather site on Weather Underground that has current and comprehensive weather information and history for our locale.

The telescopes and cameras  are robotically controlled by Sky6 software from Software Bisque. Many other software packages are in use for image manipulation, session planning, image stacking, photometry, astrometry, etc.

The observatory is fully wired with CAT5e cable throughout, including all the piers on the outside deck, and links to the school system network and the outside world include 50 pairs of telephone wire and 12 fiber optic cable (6 multimode, 6 single mode). We are able to produce live broadcasts to the local cable network, with pristine signal quality.

In the control room, there is a projection system for educational and group project purposes, linked though switches so that any computer or signal source can be linked to the projector, wherever it may be deployed in the facility or on the outside event deck.

 

The outside deck has four telescope piers and adapters for many many popular telescope mounts. Each pier has power and signal connectors, with signal linked to the main network switch.