I first contacted Greg Morgan at Sierra Remote Observatories in November 2010. SRO is a telescope park nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains an hour east of Fresno, CA. The park is very similar to a data center in the computer world — its a secure location, providing power and internet connections at a super dark high elevation location. The mountains are above the smog layer of the atmosphere and block most of the clouds coming in from the Pacific leading to 280 clear nights per year. When I first contacted them they didn’t have any openings, but were just starting the process of building a new observatory building that would house 20+ telescopes. I put down a deposit and signed the lease and started building out the rig in my backyard. Over the next two years the guys at SRO walked me through the process and help me out immensely with learning the ropes of robotic astrophotography. I would ultimately control the telescope remotely via the internet from across the country, but this was quite an overwhelming project when first starting out. The observatory building process took longer than expected, but I put the time to good use and I really needed it. It literally took me all of this time to get all of the equipment and learn how to set it up and use it properly. I had finally gotten to the point where everything was working perfectly just a few weeks ago. They just finished the observatory in California and I had to tear down my astro-rig and ship it 2000 miles across the country. It shipped out yesterday on a freight truck. I will fly out to California next weekend and if all goes well I will be setting everything up next Friday and Saturday night during the peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower!
Here’s a picture of my observatory in Freeland, Maryland. I love the fall colors this time of year.
Here’s a picture of me with my scope right before we tore it down. I’m literally about ready to cry.
This is an amazing bunch of hardware.
The imaging train starts with a 360 degree rotator and field flattener, some extension tubes, an Astrodon MMOAG (Monster Manual Off Axis Guider), an SBIG 402 guide camera, a 10 position color filter wheel and then the Apogee U16M full format CCD camera.
The Apogee CCD camera is super cooled with a huge CCD chip!
Front view of RCOS with 14.5″ primary mirror.
Paramount ME German Equatorial Mount looking sad and lonely without the scope.
And finally all that was left behind…
We wheeled the Paramount up the hill and into the garage.
Packed everything up and put it on the truck yesterday. Note I do not use an apple computer for controlling the observatory telescope, i just had the box lying around and used it to pack my PC.