State of the Night Sky Live Project

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RJN
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State of the Night Sky Live Project

Post by RJN » Fri Jan 26, 2007 2:39 am

State of the Night Sky Live Project

The state of all-sky monitoring continues to change and I would like to take this opportunity to review the state of the Night Sky Live project in particular. One reason I am so slow with my NSL correspondence is that I am trying to speak with all of the below people simultaneously. People are, of course, encouraged to either post responses to this post or contact each other directly!

The general goal of the NSL project is to provide steady cloud images to major observatories and to enable science such as better meteor monitoring.

My personal goals here continue to be to move away from being the defacto global manager of the Night Sky Live (NSL) Project, and move toward being more of a technical and science advisor and a person who uses wide angle night sky monitors for productive scientific purposes.

As indicated in my old email and recent BB entry titled "A new model for the continuation of the NSL network" posted here:
http://asterisk.apod.com/viewtopic.php?t=9698
I consider the new model for NSL is more of a new "Wikipedia" model than the old "Microsoft" model. By this I mean that instead of considering other developers of wide-field night sky cameras (e.g.: "CONCAMs") as competition to the existing CONCAMs, I now will like to invite other cameras into the NSL network and grab their images. What do these other developers get out of this? The collective wisdom of dealing with all of the other developers, I would hope. This includes knowing what others are doing and borrowing and/or adapting much needed software.

First I continue to collaborate with Noah Brosch (email: nbrosch at yahoo dot com), the director of Israel's Wise Observatory, on developing and deploying more and better CONCAMs into the network. Noah is building two CONCAM4s that are planned to be deployed to Antarctica for meteor observations. Noah is scheduled to visit my home university (Michigan Tech) this summer (2007) when we will discuss things in detail. (If others reading this want to visit Tech at the same time, perhaps we can make it into a mini-meeting.)

Next I have been in contact with Scott Vitres (email: astro at scvs dot com), an industrious programmer about him becoming the new web guru for the NSL website. Scott has impressive credentials in programming and has continually shown enthusiasm for the NSL effort. My hope is that Scott will take over for Lior Shamir (email: shamirl at mail dot nih dot gov) a former graduate student and who still does maintain some interest in the NSL project), who is moving on to other things. My other hope is that Scott will make innovations for the NSL web site, which he appears to be on the verge of doing!

Next, I have been in contact with Tim Pickering (email: tim at mmto dot org), an astronomer at MMTO, who has developed an absolutely wonderful night sky monitor for the Multiple Mirror Telescope. The web site for this monitor is here: http://skycam.mmto.arizona.edu/ . Tim also has written a very descriptive SPIE paper about his camera design that is posted here: http://www.mmto.org/MMTpapers/spie/skyc ... 67-448.pdf

Tim's camera runs all of the time, even during the day! Tim's camera is actually a video device that time resolves satellites (10 second frames). I am now working with Tim to develop a next-generation of his camera that can go to even finer time resolutions.

Next, I am in contact with a new assistant professor here at MTU Melissa Meyer (email: mgmeyer at mtu dot edu) about measuring meteors by radio reflections. Melissa is quite knowledgeable about radio stuff and I am decidedly not. The idea is that meteors are a primary science driver for CONCAMs, and meteors can also be detected easily by their reflection of distant radio signals. I would therefore like to put a radio inside each optical CONCAM box that records radio-meteors. This would make the meteor science of CONCAMs more powerful. To that end, I have recently bought a ICOM PCR2500 radio receiver and have been fiddling with it trying to detect meteors. No success yet.

Next, I have been in contact with Andy Smith (email: andy at television dot f9 dot co dot uk) who is quite good at detecting meteors with radio ICOM devices. He has already been a big help, and I plan to clone the rest of his setup including the software he uses. Again, my hope is to create an inexpensive radio device that can be put in the CONCAM boxes and confirm and correlate CONCAM meteor detections.

Next, a Bob Hillenbrand (email: Not1star at aol dot com), an astronomy enthusiast from Florida, has emailed me asking how he can help out the project. Bob appears to be a savvy astronomer with years of experience in science, outreach, and even fundraising. Hopefully we can find a way that he can make a major contribution to this project.

Distributing CONCAM1s

Israel

Noah Brosch (email above) already has one of the CONCAM1s with him in Israel. Noah has even already fit his CONCAM1 with an optical chopper that will enable it to decode the angular speed of meteors. This is a key science bonus for these CONCAM1s -- and any CONCAMs -- and I hope that he will have his collaborators post plans of how he did this so that others can do it as well.

Ontario

I have several older CONCAM1s in my basement and I have decided to distribute them to the benefit of the project. I have already sent one (for free) to Kevin Kell in Ontario. I contacted Kevin when I realized that he had been involved in developing night sky camera systems for years. Kevin's web site called "Starlight Cascade" is here:
http://www.starlightcascade.ca/ . Kevin is in the process of setting up his CONCAM1.
Kim Hay has already put a comment on this BB about their CONCAM1 which is here: http://asterisk.apod.com/viewtopic.php?t=9377 . Of course, my hope here is to grab this CONCAM1's images for NSL and for Kevin and Kim to become involved in making CONCAMs better over all.

Chile and Canary Islands (Slooh.com)

I have been in contact with Slooh.com about giving them a CONCAM1 in exchange for them letting us grab images from both that CONCAM1 (destined for Chile) and the CONCAM1-like device they already have in the Canary Islands. My contact person is currently Mathew Marulla (email: mmarulla at slooh.com). It looks like we will do this deal. One particularly good thing is that both of these Slooh.com CONCAMs might give needed parallax observations for the CONCAM3s already stationed in Chile and the Canary Islands. In general, I am trying to encourage deploying CONCAMs in configurations where they can get parallax with other CONCAMs.

California

Next I have been in touch with Peter Jenniskens (email: pjenniskens at maildot arc dot nasa dot gov), a noted meteor expert, who will deploy a CONCAM1 at his home. I will send a CONCAM1 out to him soon. Peter will hopefully adapt his CONCAM1 for optimal meteor use and tell us how he did it so that others may follow.

Hawaii

Next I have been in recent contact with Bo Reipurth (email: reipurth at ifa dot hawaii dot edu) who is interested in building his own CONCAM to put on Mauna Loa in Hawaii. He may be following the plans for the MMTO CONCAM pioneered by Tim Pickering.

I have also been in contact with Garry Nitta (email: nitta at ifa dot Hawaii dot edu) who supports the failing CONCAM3 on Haleakala. Garry was trying to get the CONCAM3 there to work again, but for some reasons has not been successful.

The old CONCAM2 and CONCAM3 both on Mauna Kea appear to have died. That is an important node because of all the big telescopes it supports, because of its great skies, and because it has good parallax opportunities with both CONCAMs on Haleakala and Mauna Loa. I would therefore like to see a working CONCAM-like device deployed there in the near future, once again.

Chile (Again)

I have been in recent contact with Olivier Hainaut (email: ohainaut at eso dot org) from the VLT telescope array in Chile to get MASCOT images. MASCOT is their wide-angle all-sky camera. Olivier is sympathetic but says that he doesn't have permission for NSL to grab MASCOT images from across the VLT firewall just yet. He is investigating this further, however.

Texas

I found out at the recent January meeting of the American Astronomical Society that U. Texas and the Hobby Eberly Telescope people have recently created their own CONCAM-like device. They graciously cited the NSL project and the codes we use in helping them get started. I had a brief verbal exchange with Matthew Shetrone (shetrone at astro dot as dot utexas dot edu) about grabbing their images for our NSL site, and he said that sounds reasonable but I should get back to him with a more formal request.

Colorado

I have been made aware of a good CONCAM-like device at Cloudbait Observatory in Colorado described here: http://www.cloudbait.com/projects/allskycamera1.html . This design is like the MMTO all sky camera, but has already been optimized for meteors in some way. I look forward to discussing this camera with its designer Chris Peterson (email: clp at alumni dot Caltech dot edu) and asking for him to join in our project in some meaningful way.

Canary Islands (again)

Canary Islands are having trouble keeping their CONCAM3 running. Lior is attempting to debug it. Apparently there is some timing error. I note that Rene Rutten (email: rgmr at ing dot iac dot es) has been very helpful all along with their CONCAM3, making several improvements on the device.


Last, I have been in contact with a mysterious figure "Nereid" (email: nereidt at gmail dot com) who is now the chief administrator for this NSL bulletin board. Nereid won't tell me his/her real name, but has been absolutely wonderful in keeping Spam on this board down to a minimum. For a while, I thought the amazing amount of spam would shut down this BB, but thanks to Nereid's efforts over the past few months spam is now actually under control. Thank you Nereid, whoever you are!

If this (too long!) post generates useful responses or anything positive for the NSL project or wide-angle night sky monitoring in general, I will write another one at a later date.

- Robert Nemiroff

nbrosch
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Israel: status of CONCAM IVs

Post by nbrosch » Fri Jan 26, 2007 9:36 am

Dear all:

Following up on Bob's mailing, I am updating you on the status of the cameras we are building. We completed the hardware acquisitions except for a second computer and have a preliminary design that will be implemented on a first camera (mod. 1). If it will prove successful, we would copy it for the second camera.

The plan is to test both cameras as a system for meteor triangulation once they are completed for at least one year, so that we can detect any bugs they have and fix those. For instance, we know that the NSL software would not be directly useful, since the CCDs we will use in the CONCAM IVs have different drivers and would require a programming effort beyond our capabilities. We probably would use a WINDOWS system and maintain the imaging cadence of the NSL.

Following a year's testing we would have to ruggedize the systems and attempt to locate them either in the Antarctic, probably in the vicinity of McMurdo where internet links are available, or in the Australian desert where a Czech meteor-detection system already operates.

Given that I am now on sabbatical (presently in Cape Town, South Africa), I cannot nudge too often our workshops to produce the mod. 1 camera. I will try to do so remotely, but may have only limited success.

Regarding the summer 2007 MTU stay this is definitely [b]on[/b], though Bob and me have not yet fixed the dates of my visit. Since the emphasis of the NSL project seems to be shifting, it might be a good idea to have a get-together of as many as possible interesting parties to discuss options and scientific goals.

Noah

mikeu
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Re: State of the Night Sky Live Project

Post by mikeu » Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:40 am

Has there been any movement to implement this new model? I am currently working on a small sky camera project at the Ladd Observatory. I'll be using a Wikipedia model to develop the project. Feeel free to contact me for more info.
RJN wrote:State of the Night Sky Live Project

As indicated in my old email and recent BB entry titled "A new model for the continuation of the NSL network" posted here:
http://asterisk.apod.com/vie ... php?t=9698
I consider the new model for NSL is more of a new "Wikipedia" model than the old "Microsoft" model. By this I mean that instead of considering other developers of wide-field night sky cameras (e.g.: "CONCAMs") as competition to the existing CONCAMs, I now will like to invite other cameras into the NSL network and grab their images. What do these other developers get out of this? The collective wisdom of dealing with all of the other developers, I would hope. This includes knowing what others are doing and borrowing and/or adapting much needed software.
Last edited by mikeu on Mon Feb 04, 2008 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

nbrosch
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Location: Back at Tel Aviv University after a sabbatical

Post by nbrosch » Mon Feb 04, 2008 4:21 am

[b]Unfortunately[/b], not much has happened. The culprit is the lack of sufficient manpower. We completed one camera and tested it at the Wise Observatory. The camera produces images with [u]significantly[/u] more stellar images than the CONCAM 2 we operate. However, my idea to protect the fisheye lens with a large plate-glass window did not prove out. The reasons were that (a) this way the lens has to be below the lip of the glass window holder, and this limits the field, and (b) much more important are the multiple reflections between the glass plate and the lens. Presumably, both are anti-reflection coated, but we do see at least two images of the telescope dome, which is nearby.

We plan to design now an automatic cover that would be weather-proof and would open only when the sky would be clear. However, this being manpower intensive, did not take sufficient priority among the tasks we have to complete.

mikeu
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Ladd Observatory sky camera

Post by mikeu » Mon Apr 28, 2008 2:14 pm

I started a new thread where I will post updates on the sky camera at Ladd Observatory. There is one test image there that includes a bright Iridium flare.

See: http://asterisk.apod.com/vie ... hp?t=13235