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ALPHA Teaser Series #4: Arrival of the ALPHA Telescope!



After a six-month long wait due to shipping delays and supply shortages, ALPHA’s telescope and mount have finally arrived on campus! This milestone begins the next phase of the ALPHA installation project: systems testing. When this testing is completed in the coming weeks, the telescope and mount will move to their permanent home.

Back in December 2021, it was announced that the ALPHA Observatory would be arriving before the start of the Fall semester in 2022. Since then, several teaser blogs have been posted in anticipation of its arrival. In this newest blog, Dr. Marcel Mabson discusses the recent accomplishments and next steps for the observatory. 

ALPHA’s Imaging Cameras Complete Bench-Testing

ALPHA Summer Intern Julianna Reese Systems Testing ALPHA equipment
Above: ALPHA summer intern, Julianna Reese completes calibration testing on ALPHA’s imaging cameras and successfully matted the guide telescope to the adapter plate.

 

ALPHA’s summer intern Julianna Reese began a busy first week with the project on Mon., May 23. After completing software training, Julianna successfully installed all software drivers and configured ALPHA’s control software to connect to each imaging camera. This milestone concluded with the successful activation of each camera and for the first time, powered on the observatory’s main imaging system: the ZWO1600MM. A critical part of bench-testing for the main camera was to verify the cooler assembly. The cooler on the camera enables it to cool the imaging chip to -20° ambient temperature, which enables the camera to produce as little noise as possible. During testing, it was confirmed that the camera maintained an -18.5° temperature for over 2 hours. Julianna also completed calibration testing and produced images that will remove any artifacts during image processing.   

ALPHA Clear Sky Chart Now Available

ALPHA Clear Sky Chart
Above: ALPHA Observatory clear sky chart

This week, ALPHA received its clear sky chart, which provides observers with a forecast of sky and weather conditions at the observatory site. This can be accessed via the web at: https://www.cleardarksky.com/c/ALPHAObMDkey.html?1  the chart will also be available on Capitol ALPHA website.

ALPHA Observatory Site Prepared for Construction

Location Designated for ALPHA Site with Orange Cones
Above: The orange cones designate the location for ALPHA's assembly site

 

The ALPHA observatory site was finalized this month and university facilities are preparing the site for observatory construction. The team expects to receive the NexDome observatory system Mon., June 6 with installation occurring that week.

ALPHA’s Telescope and Mount Arrives

ALPHA Summer Intern Julianna Reese Unboxing ALPHA equipment
Above: ALPHA summer intern, Julianna Reese, inspects ALPHA’s 11-inch telescope after delivery.

 

The ALPHA telescope arrived on campus on June 1st. The complete system consists of an equational mount, 11-inch optical tube assembly (OTA), and counterweights. This is a major milestone delivery for the observatory, as it enables the project to begin the next steps in connecting the telescope systems to the control software. After unboxing and initial inspection, no damage was found and the team assembled the mount. Fully assembled, the completed telescope system will weight ~150lbs. Additional testing will include mounting the guide camera on the OTA, an aliveness test, and OTA mounting. In total, over 20 test will be executed on the system before it is transported to the observatory.

ALPHA imaging camera
Above: ALPHA imaging camera

 

ALPHA Telescope Assembly Mount
Above: ALPHA Telescope Assembly Mount

 

In a future blog, we will explore more of the telescope system, so stay tuned for more exciting news!

To read our other ALPHA Teaser Blogs, visit the links provided below:

Skywatching with Professor Mabson | ALPHA Teaser Series #1

Orbiting the Unknown │ ALPHA Teaser Series #2

Eyes to the Universe | ALPHA Teaser Series #3

Visit our website for more information on our Astronautical Science program, and our Space Flight Operations Training Center (SFOTC) which hosts the ALPHA Command Center Computer System.