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ISSAT “Telescope Alpha”. Richard Berry Astronomical League. Telescope Alpha: Project Goals. To build an ISSAT group within the Astronomical League To gain experience operating a remote-access telescope To test user interface and remote-control techniques. What Is “Telescope Alpha?”.

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issat telescope alpha

ISSAT “Telescope Alpha”

Richard Berry

Astronomical League

telescope alpha project goals
Telescope Alpha: Project Goals
  • To build an ISSAT group within the Astronomical League
  • To gain experience operating a remote-access telescope
  • To test user interface and remote-control techniques
what is telescope alpha
What Is “Telescope Alpha?”
  • 14-Inch Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope
  • Computer-controlled Paramount mounting
  • SBIG ST-9 and ST-5C CCD cameras
  • Dell PowerEdge control computers
  • Hughes DirecWay satellite Internet link
  • Operation from Vanderbilt University

See our web site at


winer observatory
Winer Observatory

Sonoita, AZMark Trueblooddesigned and constructed Winer Observatory as a home site for computer-controlled remotely-operated telescopes.

telescope alpha s technology
Telescope Alpha’s Technology
  • High-sensitivity ST-9 CCD camera
    • Faint objects with short exposures
  • High-Resolution ST-5C CCD camera
    • Lunar and planetary imaging
  • Satellite communications link
    • No need for high-capacity phone line
  • Browser controlled software
    • Anyone can use this telescope
implementation schedule
Implementation Schedule
  • 7/2001: Go-Ahead from League
  • 9/2001: Components Arrive, Chicago
  • 10/2001: First Light, Chicago
  • 2/2002: Installed Sonoita, AZ
  • 3/2002: Regular observations begin
why is telescope alpha special
Why Is Telescope Alpha Special?
  • First step toward amateur telescope on International Space Station
  • Access to individuals, schools, and general public
  • Think of it: an “Internet Star Party”


See our web site at

assembly schedule
Assembly Schedule
  • Feb 1: Mounting and telescope
    • First light, rough polar alignment
  • Feb 2: Mount CCD cameras
    • Assemble, take test images
  • Feb 3: Computers, software, communications
    • Remote from warm room
    • Remote over satellite link
unloading telescope alpha
Unloading Telescope Alpha

Feb 1

The south door of the roll-off roof is open.

setting the pier in place
Setting the Pier in Place

Tom Melsheimer and Lance Martin

attaching the optical tube
Attaching the Optical Tube

Orville Brettman Tom Melsheimer

getting ready for dark
Getting Ready for Dark

In preparation for aligning the polar axis of the Paramount mounting (on loan to the ISSAT Project from Software Bisque), Tom Melsheimer attaches and wires a video camera.

roof rollback first night
Roof Rollback: First Night

Feb 1

When we roll back the roof, few stars are visible.

telescope alpha first light
Telescope Alpha: First Light

Polar alignment, through holes in the clouds, starting with Betelgeuse

it works what s next
It Works! What’s Next?
  • Install and test CCD cameras
  • Run cables to warm room
  • Test operation from warm room
  • Install Hughes satellite dish
  • Establish satellite link to Nashville
  • Operate telescope from Vanderbilt
assembling the electronics
Assembling the Electronics

Feb 2

Matt Bisque was in charge of the CCD cameras and the computers donated by Dell Computer Corporation.

getting ready to run the ccds
Getting Ready to Run the CCDs

Matt Bisque troubleshoots a minor problem with a color filter wheel.

the ccd cameras
The CCD Cameras

Two CCD cameras, an ST-9 and an ST-5C, are on loan to the ISSAT Project from SBIG.



switching ccd cameras
Switching CCD Cameras

A computer-controlled motorized flip mirror will allow observers to use either CCD camera.

satellite link to nashville
Satellite Link to Nashville

The dish and one year of free service were donated by Hughes.

in the warm room
In the Warm Room

Terry Mann at the controls in Sonoita.

Once the satellite link works, it will be just as easy to run the telescope from Dyer Observatory, in Nashville, TN.

current status
Current Status
  • Telescope Alpha Operational
    • 14-inch Celestron SCT has replaced 12-inch
    • Pointing calibration by mid-March
    • Browser-based operation in testing
  • Future: Bright or Bleak?
    • Corporate interest in ground-based telescope network
    • But uncertain funding for Space Station
issat and the team
ISSAT and “the Team”

Left to right:Richard BerryTom MelsheimerMatt BisqueOrville BrettmanTerry MannLance MartinSean Sheldon

what happens next
What Happens Next?
  • Operate Telescope Alpha
    • Gain experience, establish ties.
  • Seek Funds for Ground Telescopes
    • 3 to 6 permanent ground stations
  • Propose ISSAT to NASA
    • “Crown Jewel” is telescope in space


See our web site at