Automation Of Spectroscopic Observations On The Dark Sky Observatory 32-Inch Telescope

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Daniel Edwin Rosenberg (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Richard O. Gray

Abstract: The 32-inch telescope at Dark Sky Observatory and the attached GM Spectrograph have been remotely operable via internet since December of 2011, allowing users to carry out spectroscopic observations from home. However frequent attention is nonetheless required throughout the night. In addition, many observers are university faculty and observe on weeknights. To make observing more convenient, efficient, and consistent, we sought to automate the existing hardware and software systems necessary to conduct astronomical spectroscopy, with minimal additions. This thesis details our efforts, namely incorporating the intelligence and caution of a human, and the efficiency and consistency of a computer. We developed a program called RoboticSpectroscopist, with a graphical user interface, to carry out the observing procedure. It communicates with three observatory computers, as well as with a weather-monitoring program, RoboticWeatherman. Our custom software is written using the scripting language AutoIt, and incorporates a few standalone C programs. It controls devices and software using TCP/IP, X-10, ActiveX, and SMTP communication protocols. It has been designed to protect observatory equipment and can notify a user via text message should a problem arise. RoboticSpectroscopist has been noticeably more efficient than human observers, regularly acquiring upwards of one hundred spectra on clear nights.

Additional Information

Rosenberg, D. (2016). Automation Of Spectroscopic Observations On The Dark Sky Observatory 32-Inch Telescope. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2016
Astronomy and Astrophysics, Spectroscopy, Instrumentation, Automation, Programming

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