Feder Observatory

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

Observing Log 10/19/2014 0

Posted on October 19, 2014 by Matt

Erin A., Brandon C., Brian T., Eli H., and Lauren U. had a very interesting night.  The night was clear and we were ready to observe the sky, but unfortunately we ran into a problem connecting to the camera.  When we tried to connect, we received a pop up window that said “error opening camera, could not initialize the ccd camera(5).”  We managed to get both Juan Cabanela and Matt Craig on the phone at the same time.  After putting all seven of our heads together, we tried a variety of things and after being unsuccessful we gave up for the night.

Observing Log, 10/9/2014 0

Posted on October 09, 2014 by Matt

Matt Craig, Erin Aadland, Brian Ternes and Brandon Crowe went observing tonight. Very clear night, shot several calibration shots, then science images of:

  • BU Cam (R filter)
  • Kelt-1 b (R filter)
  • NGC 1039 (BVRI)

Air temperature was 36F, focus set to 2830 and FWM around 5. We ended up just taking one image of each science object because people needed to get back to homework.

We also took out one of the 6-inch celestrons and looked at the Moon, Mizar/Alcor, Albireo, the Ring Nebula and Uranus. Technically we probably also had some photons from Pluto hit our eyes too but we couldn’t actually see it.

Observing log, 10/8/2014 0

Posted on October 09, 2014 by Matt

Nathan Walker, Elias Holte and I observed this evening. The science targets were NGC 6946, TReS-2 b and EY UMa. Seeing was very good (FWHM of 5-6 with focus of 2831, air temperature of 28F) but we hit a number of issues:

  • We forgot to turn on TCS after shooting calibration frames (got some nice star trails, though!)
  • The V filter looks very “foggy”, as it has on occasion in the past. Should probably be cleaned again.
  • Windows had to reinstall the camera driver. Again.
  • I left briefly, and when I returned the telescope was “trailing” again. Wre weren’t sure why, but resetting TCS to user default settings seemed to fix it, for a while, until…
  • …star trails, again. After trying several things I went out to the dome and noticed the hand paddle that hangs from the back of the telescope was pressing against the camera because of the orientation of the telescope. It was pushing down the “N” button (which explained the green “N” I was seeing in TCS) so I rotated the paddle 180 degrees and was back in business.
  • But only for a little while, because the camera died suddenly. Made another trip to the dome and found that the power brick had fallen of the pedestal, unplugging the camera. Plugged it back in and the rest of the night was uneventful.

Nathan and Elias left around 11:30PM, I stayed until around 7AM.

I changed the focus to 2821 around 2AM, temperature had dropped to around 20F.


Matt Craig

Observing Log, 9/16/2014 0

Posted on September 17, 2014 by Matt

Observed tonight with Nathan Walker, Laura Herzog and Michael Meraz.  The main focus was on reviewing/learning setup and shutdown procedures but we did take some images of M57 (Ring Nebula) in R-band only (to limit time spent on taking flats).


Air temperature was about 60F, focus set to 2845 with FWHM of 5.5-6.5.


Matt Craig


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, 5/21/2014 0

Posted on May 22, 2014 by Matt

Observed EY UMa, MY Aql and M82 tonight, along with a couple of Landolt fields.

Temperature was around 55F, focus set to 2845 and seeing was very good (4.5-6 FWHM, and fairly steady).

Uneventful night, though it seemed like there were many more cosmic rays than usual — I saw several in a small area of the frame over the course of an hour.



Observing log, 4/21/2014 0

Posted on April 22, 2014 by Matt

Went to the observatory tonight with the goal of taking data on EY UMa and M82. It took a few minutes at the beginning of the night to push the telescope back up to vertical, but initialization was quick after that using astrometry.net’s web service to get the pointing.


Seeing was lousy–jumped from FWHM around 5 to 15. Focus was initially set to 2840 and the temperature was about 50F. By around 11PM the “stars” looked awful…think blurry pacman (see below).


Adjusted focus, which didn’t help a lot, and moved the dome, which was partially blocking the field of view. Patchy clouds came in after that…and then had to leave earlier than planned because a child at home wasn’t feeling well.

Bottom line: Got data only on EY UMa, and that data is of marginal quality.


Bean-shaped stars. Bad :(

Observing log, 4/4/2014 0

Posted on April 05, 2014 by Matt

Laura, Nathan, Hollee  and I observed tonight. It was cloudy until 1:45AM so the first several hours were spent taking calibration images, including a set of flats to check linearity.

One important lesson from the night: DO NOT HAVE TRACKING TURNED ON WHILE TAKING FLATS. Nothing bad happened, but the orientation of the telescope was changing over the few hours we were doing flats and if it had gone much further the diffuser would have fallen off.

The only science object of the night was M82, observed in BVR.

Temperature was 33F, focus 2814 with FWHM between 5 and 6 pixels.

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!

“Observing” Log, 3/1/2014 0

Posted on March 01, 2014 by Matt

I use the term “observing” very loosely here.

Beautifully clear night when I arrived around 8PM, almost no wind, just like the forecast said.

Had a few minutes to spare before the object I was interested in would be up so I decided to update a bit of software on the computer. No problem, then I connected the camera, again no problem.


  • The telescope decided it should slew to the star I was going to initialize on by taking the long way from zenith to the 2 degrees from zenith it needed to move. Ended up like in the picture below.
  •  The camera didn’t seem to appreciated having its cord unceremoniously unplugged. The computer no longer recognized the camera and claimed the “USB Device was damaged”.
  • Apparently my judgment was damaged too, because I decided to fix the problem by reinstalling the driver.
  • Several reboots and a handful of chocolate covered espresso beans later the computer still claimed the camera was damaged so I went back out to the dome.
  • The camera’s fan sounded like it was breathing so I jiggled the power cord; after that it sounded better so I went back inside. Maybe it was complaining about the temperature, around -15F.
  • I plugged the USB cable back into the back of the computer, and…success! After two hours the camera can talk to the computer.
  • Not trusting TCS to steer the telescope to a star I decided to shoot a pic, fit astrometry to it, and use that to initialize the telescope direction, which confirmed what I thought when I went out to the dome: it was cloudy 🙁
  • Called it a night at that point.

NOTE: The camera power cord is in the control room…that way it will be able to bend when taken back out to the dome so that it can be placed in a more stable position.



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