Midnight on the OASYS......
From the early planning days for my observatory at DAV I realized that automation would play a key role. My demands were high, the system must have the following attributes; software integration, premise security, remote monitoring, remote control, a rules engine, and lots of redundancy built in. I did plenty of research and met with several automation system vendors to review my unique needs. Based on this research I selected, as my primary core architecture, the ELK M1 Gold system.
The selection of this core architecture was just the beginning of this effort. While this is the most critical component there were other sub systems that would be required to fully automate my observatory. #1 was selecting an observatory construction company that met my structural needs, to include, obviously, a motorized roof system. Scott Horstman at Backyard Observatories was the obvious choice. His motor and rack system are proven and can easily handle the task. I worked closely with Scott on the integration of his motor system into the m1OASYS. Scott was so impressed with the m1OASYS systems he is now my partner in this endeavor.
The next step in fully realizing the vision of the m1OASYS was to create an interface between my system and the unique astronomy software and hardware components that exist today. This gets complicated because the modes of interfacing these devices and components are not really standardized, although there are some eforts underway to create a standard within this community. I met up with Chuck Faranda who has created ASCOM drivers in the past to integrate roll off roof systems and he agreed to work with me to create a driver for the m1OASYS that allowed for full integration with these hardware and software devices. Chuck also was very impressed and he is now also a partner in this endeavor.
So with my m1OASYS in place and my observatory constructed I have fulfilled my goal to have a completely automated, robotic, roll-off roof observatory. I can easily image remotely from my home in Atlanta, or from virtually anywhere the world where I can get an internet connection. I feel very comfortable with this system in place in that my equipment is secure, I can control it from anywhere, and I am fully integrated into the workflow process of image acquisition....pretty cool huh?
The m1OASYS System is commercially available today through Backyard Observatories. Here are the key messaging points for the system:
1) Secure your Observatory - World-class home security system includes up to 16 separate zones to monitor windows, doors and other areas for intrusion, fire, etc....The system can alert owner of security breaches via Alarms, Phone, Text Message or Email. The system can also be connected to a remote monitoring company for added security. The security features of this system are additionally utilized as an add-on safety step when opening or closing the roof. Opening or Closing a roll-off roof is not a trivial task and the operator needs to take all necessary precautions before starting the roof motor. Damage to equipment can occur when the roof is in motion so all necessary precautions should be taken before executing such a command.
2) Monitor your Observatory - Monitors security status, arming/disarming events, intrusions, temperature limits, AC power failures, and more. System can alert owner of these events or failures via Phone, Text Messaging, or Email. In addition the system can be programmed by the end-user to react to specific events, for example when an AC power failure is detected, and the roof is open, the system can contact you via phone, then park your telescope, power down your camera, secure your observatory and close the roof, all automatically based on this single event. The possibilities are truly amazing.
3) Control your Observatory - The m1 OASYS can be programmed to automate many of the key functions of your observatory. The system can automate the open and close functions of your observatory roof and can be integrated into the security functions to ensure that your telescope is in a secure and parked position before opening or closing the roof. The system can control lighting and turn on/off individual systems such as computers, cameras, or mounts. All these automation tasks can be executed locally, via a system keypad, or remotely via Phone or Java Internet application.
4) Integrate your Observatory. The hub of this system is the m1 OASYS Live Application, an ASCOM compliant PC application. This extremely robust and functional application allows many of these tasks to be executed remotely by image automation programs such as CCDAutopilot or ACP, thus allowing for completely unattended/remote imaging sessions. The application includes a number of options including alerting the user via Phone, Text Message or Email, whenever your imaging run is complete, giving you the flexibility to automatically close the roof or not.