Feder Observatory

A Blog for Minnesota State University Moorhead's Paul P. Feder Observatory

Observing Log, 9/5/2014 0

Posted on September 05, 2014 by Matt

No science observing was done tonight, but there was a public night so we opened up the dome.


We hit a problem we hadn’t hit before: the telescope computer forgot that it knew about the camera. After a little while windows recognized that there was “new” hardware and offered to install the driver. Doing that got the camera working again.

Incidentally “we” is Matt Craig and Juan Cabanela.


Temperature was approximately 65F and focus was set to 2545 with seeing around 7px FWHM.

Observing Log, 4/1/2014 0

Posted on April 02, 2014 by Matt

I went observing this evening; conditions were excellent throughout the night (consistent seeing, though the focus needed to be adjusted around 3:45AM because the temperature had gone down).


Air temperature started around 23F, focus set to 2795. Focus was changed to 2785 around 3:45AM because it had cooled off.


  • M82 (enough images to get SNR on the supernova, but not enough to make pretty pictures)
  • UZ Vir, discussed in this article by Sodor, et al., because it had a maximum early-ish in the evening (12:40PM) and I’d like to try and reproduce their results (by which I really mean make my curve line up with theirs).
  • EY UMa, because I’m here, it is up, and there was a maximum forecast around 5AM.
  • The standard field SA104


  • The filter wheel briefly stopped working because the set screw was too tight. I think that is because it has warmed up considerably since the last time it was adjusted and the wheel could no longer turn.
  • The dome wasn’t lined up with the scope perfectly. Fixed by manually steering the dome a bit and setting its azimuth to the telescope’s azimuth.
  • Batteries in the reticle are dead.
  • I forgot to connect the scope to MaxImDL, so header patching will be more fun than usual.

Other than that it was smooth sailing!

Telescope computer maintenance and experimentation 0

Posted on March 06, 2014 by Matt

I came to the observatory today to do a few things:

  • Update software
  • Try running ACP (astronomer’s control panel), a piece of software for automating some aspects of observing.
  • Peek at the wiring of the computer and telescope to better understand how things fit together.
  • Try to find the State Property ID tag on the computer.

Software updated:

  • AVG Free anti virus updated to 2014 version.
  • Updated AVG virus definition files.

There is a new version of MaxImDL (v5.24, we have v5.23) but the changes seem pretty minor and we’d have to pay for the upgrade.

After creating a system restore point in case something goes wrong, I installed ACP v7.1, FocusMax and the GSC 1.1.

On the upside, it doesn’t break anything that currently works. On the downside, it doesn’t give us any new capabilities until the ASCOM/ACL driver issues are fixed. It must be possible to talk to the telescope via ACL because TheSky v5 does it successfully.


Tried TheSky-controlled telescope ASCOM driver, no luck. Apparently I would need to set up Sky v5 for scripting, didn’t get a chance to check how to do that.

And I have no idea where the property tag is…

Problems with times stamp on 9/11, 9/12, 9/13 0

Posted on September 16, 2013 by Matt

I realized tonight that there was a problem with the observatory computer; the program that keeps the computer’s internal clock synchronized with Internet time servers wasn’t working.

It turns out the problem had nothing to do with that program. The IP addresses of campus DNS servers had changed so DNS lookup was failing.

When DNS was reconfigured the synchronization program reset the computer’s internal clock, adjusting it by -46.089 seconds. In other words, 46.089 seconds was subtracted from the computer’s internal clock.

Prior to tonight (9/16/2013) the last synchronization with the time server was on 8/20/2013 at about 5:45AM.

The bottom line is that the timestamp on images taken on the dates below are likely all off by some amount between 0 and -46 sec, but there is no way to know (at least at the moment) how big that offset is. On any given night the time difference between images should be very accurate. It is only the “absolute” time that is incorrect.

Common Problems and How To Fix Them 0

Posted on February 28, 2011 by Matt
  • Camera does connect (Could not initialize CCD camera (5)
    • Try unplugging the cable connecting the camera to the computer and plugging it back in.
    • If that doesn’t work, check the device driver; find the device list by going to Start, right click on My Computer and click on Manage:

 See if there is a yellow exclamation point next to the Alta camera driver. If so, uninstall the driver (not delete–to uninstall, click on the yellow flag and a pop-up appears. Uninstall driver is one of the options.)  After uninstalling, the New Hardware Found Wizard shows up. Ask it to install driver from known location. The Wizard knows where the Alta camera driver is and will whirl around doing its thing.


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