Observatory

Observatory Project Update

The Thunder Bay Centre is pleased to be in partnership with Fort William Historical Park in the development of their David Thompson Astronomical Observatory.  The automated 15′ observatory dome houses a world class 20″ CDK telescope and mount, as well as a top notch 5″ refracting telescope, that both deliver stunning views of the gems our universe provides.

January 2013

The observatory opened for business on December 5.  It is open to the public from Wednesday to Sunday evenings from 7:30PM.  Staff are busy entertaining 4-35 guests per night, as well as honing their skills with respect to the telescope operation, and CCD image acquisitions.  The learning curve is a steep one for all that are involved.  Congratulations to FWHP and the opening of the facility.

November 2012

The observatory is undergoing final preparations for their December opening.  According to officials at FWHP, the David Thompson Astronomical Observatory will be open for business on December 5.  Landscaping is currently underway, as is final furnishing and preparation of the discovery centre.  Staff is busy getting trained on the operation of the equipment, and putting final touches on educational materials and programs.  October and so far the first part of November has not been so friendly for observing, as the clouds have seemed to be almost permanently fixed in the sky.  We anxiously await the clear skies again so we can continue our imaging, and look forward to the opening of this great facility!  Below are a couple of photos the first photos that are single 4 minute shots through the 20″ CDK.  Many more like these will follow!

Messier 27 - Dumbell Nebula

M27 - Dumbell Nebula

M57 - Ring Nebula

M57 - Ring Nebula

August 2012

WOW, it been a busy summer.  Sorry for the lack of updates over the summer but rest assured that there has been a lot of work that has been done.

Since the last update the classroom construction has been finished.  FWHP is in the process of getting the furniture, desks, screens, display cabinets etc. all installed.  The construction trailer that was acting as the control room is gone, and the new control room is operational.  The SBIG CCD 6303 camera was finally installed on the 20″ Planewave.

The next steps are to become more familiar with the CCD operation, install the weather station, cloud detector, and all-sky camera.  Landscaping around the area has also begun.

Here are a few pictures to wet your taste buds.

OBSERVATORY AND CLASSROOM (LOOKING EAST)

OBSERVATORY AND CLASSROOM (LOOKING EAST)

CLASSROOM AND DOME (LOOKING SOUTH)

CLASSROOM AND DOME (LOOKING SOUTH)

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: DAVE GALLANT, ANTHONY MARRELLI, STEVE xxx, BARNEY DESOUSA (SHADOW)

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: DAVE GALLANT, ANTHONY MARRELLI, CHRIS EDMUNDS, BARNEY DESOUSA (SHADOW)

CLASSROOM (LOOKING EAST)

CLASSROOM (LOOKING EAST)

CLASSROOM (LOOKING SOUTH)

CLASSROOM (LOOKING SOUTH) NOTE 3 OF THE 15 8" DOBS, SOLAR SCOPE AND METEORITE COLLECTION

LOOKING THROUGH CONTROL ROOM TO DOME

LOOKING THROUGH CONTROL ROOM TO DOME

CONTROL ROOM (LOOKING OUT TO CLASSROOM)

CONTROL ROOM (LOOKING OUT TO CLASSROOM)

THE HARDWARE (AND ALL THE CABLES THAT RUN IT)

THE HARDWARE (AND ALL THE CABLES THAT RUN IT)

CLOWNING AROUND FOR THE CAMERA

CLOWNING AROUND FOR THE CAMERA

DSC_0152

Advertising Begins!! Yay!!

May 2012

Well it’s been a while since the last update.  Spring at the Observatory has not been overly busy for a number of reasons.  The weather has certainly not been in our favour as of late, and neither has the amount of darkness.  Increasing amounts of daylight mean that we need to start work at the observatory later than had been in the winter.  FWHP does not always have staff available that late in the night to stay and get any decent amount of work done.  This will soon change, as they transition into their summer programs, and there is staff there all evening.

Since was last reported, the classroom building has been worked on.  It now has a roof, the electrical is roughed in, and the HVAC unit and ductwork are in place.  Work continues on the inside.  By the time you read this, there will be windows installed, and the drywall will have been started.

As far as the dome and telescope go, I am proud to announce that we finally got the pieces in the focal train to be able to get the Mallincam MCX to a proper focus on the 20″ telescope.  On the last Saturday in April the pictures below were taken.  Please keep in mind that the pictures posted here in no way represent what the image looked like on the 9″ Speco monitor (They were way better on screen).  These are cell phone pictures of the 9″ monitor.  All the pictures on the monitor were at a 56s exposure with the Mallincam (and a 1/4 moon too). Eventually these will be able to be captured direct to a PC, and they will be awesome to view live.

Blackeye Galaxy - Messier 64

Blackeye Galaxy - Messier 64

Pinwheel Galaxy - M101

Pinwheel Galaxy - M101

Whirlpool Galaxy - M51

Whirlpool Galaxy - M51

The next bit of work on the telescope, now that the Mallincam will focus in the 20″, is to properly polar align the telescope, and build a better model for the scope drive.  We also need to start capturing pictures and video through the mallincam for presentation use during cloudy nights.  At some point soon, all the cabelling will need to get moved from the temporary control room to the permanent control room.

January 2012

January 8 – After being cloudy all day, we had a brief clear patch between 5 and 8 to get some serious work done.  The finder scope was remounted on the main scope, and it was aligned with the telescopes.  The 20″ Planewave mirror was finally revealed today, a beauty it was.  We used Jupiter as the target to align everything to, but for some reason we couldn’t get the telescope to track when we were doing this, but we got it pretty close.  We had also planned on using the Ronchi tester to ensure that the secondary mirror was at the right spacing from the primary, however we thought that we better figure out the tracking first, and play a bit more with the software that controls the telescope.  Turned out this would take us the rest of the evening.  We started using the software to try and “goto” different stars, but every time we tried one, the scope seemed to have a mind of it’s own and went off in a way different direction.  After scratching our heads and going through the software settings a number of times – we finally came upon the problem.  We had the RA motor plugs in the DEC ports, and the DEC plugs in the RA ports. DUH!!  Well it was good that we caught this early in the game!  Back to home position and lets start over again…slew to Vega in the west …and it actually went the right way….and landed to within 2-3 degrees.  A quick adjustment and sync, and we were off to Deneb..bang – right there!  We went to a few more stars, and had to sometimes use the scope handpad to adjust, but in the end we had a 7 point star model, and the telescope was tracking.  Using this small amount of data, the computer was able to tell us that we were 2 degrees to the left and one degree down from being polar aligned.  We adjusted the scope in Azimuth, but lacked the proper wrench to do the Altitude adjustment.  By this point we were all a little chilly, and the wisps of clouds started to come in, so we decided to call it a night.  We put all the caps back on everything, parked the telescope, and saved the model mount that we had just created so we can call it up the next time we go out to do more work.  Next steps – refine polar alignment, get The SkyX working with the SciTech telescope program, and test out the mallincam.

Mount/Scope Installation – Late December

December 28 – Work in the last few weeks has been limited, here is a quick list of what has been done.  Secondary scope and finder scope were mounted to primary, control cables were run through conduit to computer, foam matting was installed on concrete floor, red rope light was installed around bottom of dome, and software installation was completed.  Now the fun part – trying to get the PC to talk to the mount.  That’s the next challenge for the new year.

Dome and Scope With Door Open

Dome and Scope With Door Open

The In-dome Computer

The In-dome Computer

Showing Control Box (Siderial Technologies) and the Through the Shaft Cabling Feature

Showing Control Box (Siderial Technologies) and the Through the Shaft Cabling Feature

Back End of Scope - Plastic Over Focuser

Back End of Scope - Plastic Over Focuser

IMG_2925_2

A Frosty Mount - Both DEC and AZ Motors Shown, Hand Paddle is for Fans and Focusing

Looking At Primary Mirror Cover

Looking At Primary Mirror Cover

Secondary Telescope - TMB Signature Series 5"

Secondary Telescope - TMB Signature Series 5"

Frosty Scope with Secondary Installed

Frosty Scope with Secondary Installed

Mount/Scope Installation – Early December

December 5 – THE SCOPE IS UP!! Today the scope was delivered to site, uncrated and lifted up into it’s final resting place.  It was kind of funny when we tightened the dovetail plate.  Some people just didn’t think they should let go!  It is a pretty daunting thought of that thing coming down on you.  Once we got over that fear, the scope was given a primary balancing, and was wired up with power.  We managed to get it working by hand control (once we figured out we plugged the DEC and RA axis leads into the wrong plugs), and the motors were very very quiet for a beast this size.  Also did a bit more software installation, with a little bit more to go.  It is a very impressive looking scope, lets hope it serves the public well for many years to come!

Close-up

Close-up

The PlaneWave 20 Arrives Home

The PlaneWave 20 Arrives Home

December 3 – Another successful day, today the pier was oriented and leveled, the mount and counterweights got installed, the observatory computer got moved out to the observatory, the dome controller was hooked up to the computer via serial port, the dome and shutter were trained, and remote communications with the control room PC was established.  The new telescope was also viewed (in it’s crate) for the first time!

Dave with FWHP Staff, Anthony and Peter.

Dave with FWHP Staff, Anthony and Peter.

Drive Mounted - Dave playing with the RA clutches.

Drive Mounted - Dave playing with the RA clutches.

Telescope Top End

Telescope Top End

Telescope Business End in Shipping Container

Telescope Business End in Shipping Container

Barney Assembling the Counterweight Shaft

Barney Assembling the Counterweight Shaft

Dome Construction Day 3 – Dec 2, 2011

Today the dome was finished!!  The dome is operational from the hand control inside of it.  There are a few little quirks but nothing that can’t get ironed out in the future.  Tomorrow the plan is to get the dome working through the computer and using the remote computer to operate it.

Great Pic of the Installers - Thanks Guys!!

Great Pic of the Installers - Thanks Guys!!

Installation of Dome Drive Motor

Installation of Dome Drive Motor

Installation of Digital Dome Works Panel (the Brains of the Dome)

Installation of Digital Dome Works Panel (the Brains of the Dome)

Dome Construction Day 2 – Dec. 1, 2011

Day 2 Construction Complete

Day 2 Construction Complete

The Two Most Important Men on the Job - Jerry Smith and his son Jeremy

The Two Most Important Men on the Job - Jerry Smith and his son Jeremy

Back Panel Installed

Back Panel Installed

Both Dome Halves Installed

Both Dome Halves Installed

A Little More to the Left

A Little More to the Left

A Little More This Way

A Little More This Way

Now One More Heave-Ho!

Now One More Heave-Ho!

Lift #2

Lift #2

Jeremy Installing Hardware

Jeremy Installing Hardware

Adjustments & Tweaking

Adjustments & Tweaking

..And There We Go!

..And There We Go!

Almost There..

Almost There..

Lift #1

Lift #1

Both Dome Halves Together

Both Dome Halves Together

Assembly of Dome Half

Assembly of Dome Half

Drilling Anchor Bolt Holes

Drilling Anchor Bolt Holes

DOME CONSTRUCTION DAY 1 – NOV 30, 2011

Day 1 Construction Complete

Day 1 Construction Complete

Door Installation - Jeremy, Jerry, and our own Ray!

Door Installation - Jeremy, Jerry, and our own Ray!

Rough Plan for Door Location

Rough Plan for Door Location

Jerry and Son Hard at Work

Jerry and Son Jeremy Hard at Work

The Temporary Control Room

The Temporary Control Room

Partial Wall Construction

Partial Wall Construction

Moving Wall Sections Into Place

Moving Wall Sections Into Place

Dome Panel Being Unloaded

Dome Panel Being Unloaded

Unloading the Pieces

Unloading the Pieces

Ah Ha...Looks Kind of Like a Dome

Ah Ha...Looks Kind of Like a Dome

The Mystery Box - What Could It Be???

The Mystery Box - What Could It Be???

Mid-November 2011 Update

It has been a flurry of activity at the construction site over the last few weeks.  Both the observing pad and the dome pad/pier are complete, and work has begun on the classroom/control room building.  Arrangements have been made for the dome manufacturer to come up and assemble the dome at the end of the month.

Inside the Temporary Control Room

Inside the Temporary Control Room

The Temporary Control Room

The Temporary Control Room

The Pad and Temporary Control Room

The Pad and Temporary Control Room

The Observatory Pad

The Observatory Pad Awaits it's Scope and Building

Making it All Look Nice

Making it All Look Nice

Spreading it About - A Great Job at -3C!

Spreading it About - A Great Job at -3C!

Starting the Concrete for the Classroom Building

Starting the Concrete for the Classroom Building

New Sewer and Water Piping

New Sewer and Water Piping

New Sewer Pipe Catch Basin

New Sewer Pipe Catch Basin

Classroom Foundation and Forms (looking east)

Classroom Foundation and Forms (looking east)

Foundation Preparation for the Classroom Building

Foundation Preparation for the Classroom Building

Early November 2011 Update

Excavation for the new pier has begun!  The goal before the snow flies is to have the concrete pier, dome pad, observing pad complete, as well as to get the dome built and functional.  It is our understanding that the concrete pad for the classroom will also be poured this fall.

A Peek Under the Tarp

A Peek Under the Tarp

Temporary Electric Power Panel

Temporary Electric Power Panel

Building the Form for the Observatory Pad

Building the Form for the Observatory Pad

Observing Pad Forms Stripped

Observing Pad Forms Stripped

Pad and Pier

Pad and Pier

Freshly Poured Observing Pad

Freshly Poured Observing Pad

The Pier

The Pier

The Pier c/w Conduit

The Pier c/w Conduit

Panorama - Click to Embigenate

Panorama - Click to Embigenate

Rebar Cage for Pier

Rebar Cage for Pier

Observing Pad Framed-in

Observing Pad Framed-in

36" Sonotube Form for the Pier

36" Sonotube Form for the Pier

Surface Prep for the Observing Pad

Surface Prep for the Observing Pad

All Nicely Wrapped Gravel

All Nicely Wrapped Gravel

Excavation for Pier

Excavation for Pier

The Digging Begins

The Digging Begins

The Bare Playfield

The Bare Playfield

Discussing the Finer Aspects of True North vs. Magnetic North

Discussing the Finer Aspects of True North vs. Magnetic North

September 2011 Update

Demolition of the existing building has taken place, and tenders are currently out for the construction of the concrete pads.

...and ends.

...and ends.

Demolition Begins...

Demolition Begins...

August 2011 Update

The environmental assessment has finished, engineering drawings are near to completion, and tenders should shortly be going out for demolition, and concrete pad construction.

July 2011 Update

All of the equipment and the dome are on-site, in storage at FWHP.  Because the project is on government property, it is subject to an Environmental Assessment, which is a process that has been ongoing.  This has been completed, and needs to be posted publicly for a month.