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Blaise Pascal Tine
January 11,2001
[email protected]
Clarkson University Honors Program Thesis:
Computer Control Systems and Automation for Astronomy
The Department of Physics at Clarkson University would like to automate their telescope
for adding more functionality. Since I have a great interest in Control Systems and Robotic
Automation, I found this project to be a great opportunity for me to expand my curiosity in that
The primary objective of this project is to use my skills to help the physics department by
automating their telescope. The secondary objective will be to learn and apply notions about
control systems and astronomy.
The project will be divided in 3 phases:
 The mechanical assemblage for gears and motors
 The stepping motor controller hardware for PC interface
 The Navigator software
Project Details:
The mechanical assemblage will consist of an association of gears, strings and
Plexiglas with 3 motors necessary to control the motion of the telescope in the 3 geometric xyz
axis and an extra motor for the zooming.
The controller hardware will be a Serial Port interface, consisting of resistors, transistors
and ICs.
The software will be coded using JAVA and will support a graphical user interface.
For the realization of this project, I will be assisted by professor Jim Carroll from the
department of Computer and Electrical Engineering, and Prof. Jan Wojcik for his experience in
astronomy. The project will be elaborated during Spring 2001 semester according to the
following schedule:
January 11 - Web search about telescope automation.
January 15 - Mechanical assemblage for gears and motors.
February 5 - Controller hardware design.
March 19 - Navigator software.
I will be intensively using the web for further information about the topic. But also I will
be using information from the following books:
1. Telescope control by Mark Trueblood
2. Others related documents not mentioned.
Financial Issue:
The university's telescope is a Celestron 11 inches telescope. It has a fork mount and is
assembled with 2 optical encoders. (see Fig 1 )
The automation of the telescope is done by adding stepper motor to the rotational axis of
the motors. There are 2 rotational axes:
 The RA axis (East/West movement). (See Fig 2)
 The DEC axis (North/South movement). (See Fig 1)
The telescope possesses a RA drive corrector motor that is used to adjust the position of the
telescope because of the rotational movement of the earth.
This RA motor is a linear motor can't be used for automation, but replacing it with a stepper
motor will make the automation of the RA axis simpler.
The telescope doesn't have a corrector drive on its DEC axis. Because of that, the mount
wasn't designed to support any motor; we will need to retrofit the mount by adding some gears to
it. Three options are available:
Option 1:
It consists of changing the RA with a new stepper motor and retrofitting the DEC with a
new worm gear set.
This is the cheapest option.
Design challenge for the mechanics, controller and software.
The mechanical automation won't be optimal since it is done manually and this
can in a way affect the controller and the performance of software.
2 stepper motors: $200 x 2
Worm + gears: $150
Total: $550
Option 2:
It consists of getting a new mount for the telescope and have the controller and the
software manually built.
A good mount
Design challenge for the controller and the software.
EQ3 mount (Aims Controls Inc.): $2500
G-11 Mount (Losmandy Inc.): $3400
Option 3:
It consists of the purchase of a kit for complete automation of the telescope. The rest of
the work will then consist of writing a network software that will enable us to navigate the
telescope from a Clarkson' s computer using the Internet.
Better automation since using manufactured tools. Network application.
Good overall product quality.
Less challenging.
GM-11 & SkyWalker: $3595
G-11 with Losmandy: $3295
EQ3 + Controller; $3995
To be specific, I'm very limited financially for the realization of this project. I'm willing
to apply Option 1, but it will still require an extra expense since my Honor Thesis budget is only
Since this project, will benefit Clarkson University, I would like to know if I could
receive any extra financial support for this project.