Moana for Pilots

Here is my daily routine with the telescope:

  • First check the weather for Fort Davis.
  • If the weather is promising, log in to the Switched PDU (Power Distribution Unit) using the observatory static IP and the port the S-PDU is on.
  • On the SPDU web page, switch on the computer, 12v bus for the mount and 12v bus for the camera, filter wheel, focuser and guider.
  • Once the remote computer is on, remote log in to it (usually with Chrome Remote Desktop), and start the following programs, in that order: APCC (the program that manages the AP mount, and in particular enforces meridian and horizon limit, to avoid a pier crash), Nina, and a browser window to access, on the observatory LAN the following items: the observatory surveillance cameras, observatory weather station, as well as Nina’s web session plugin, to monitor the session.
  • Check the computer’s clock. It should have correct date and time (or disaster will ensue).
  • Check on surveillance cameras the scope looks good, and is parked in the expected position, and nobody has moved stuff in the vicinity of the scope (like a chair). Check the roof is open and look at the sky on the surveillance camera, looking for clouds.
  • Connect APCC to the mount, but leave the mount parked. (Just press the green “connect” button). Also initialize the mount when that menu pops up.
  • In Nina, refresh the imaging pan, load the sequence to execute in the advanced sequencer. Connect all equipment. Check the equipment does connect. The Starlite Express filter wheel in particular has a buggy ASCOM driver, and it sometimes need to more than 1 try. Worst case reset the 12v bus and reconnect all. This automatically starts PHD2. Do not start PHD2 manually, let Nina launch it and connect to the PHD2 server.
  • Hit run in the Nina advanced sequencer, and go on with life. In time, automatically, camera will cool, mount unpark, slew to target, plate solve, sync the mount to the sky if necessary, autofocus in L filter, switch to the correct imaging filter, apply filter offset and start imaging.
  • Later, while the session is running, if still awake, come back to the computer and control the following: CPU temperature of the computer, camera sensor temperature, electronic box temperature. Check autofocus curve for the last few autofocus, check image overall quality, check the corners. Check guiding curves and RMS guiding error. Check scope position, in APCC and on camera for consistency.

In the morning, once the sequence is finished: go back to the surveillance cameras and check the mount is in the expected parked position. Check in APCC the mount is also in parked state, and the position is consistent with reality, as seen on camera. “Disconnect all” in Nina. Disconnect APCC from the mount. Log in to the SPDU and switch off the 12v bus for mount and imaging train. Check the result from the night in the web browser (Nina Web plugin). Save the session in Nina, close Nina. Optionally start Syncthing to download the data. Shut down the computer from Windows, then shut down the computer’s power supply from the SPDU. If at shut down Windows is pushing an update, use the “update and restart”, and log back in, then shut down again. Only switch off the SPDU after certainty of a positive complete software shutdown.