First light for MICHAEL

Michael Richmond
Oct 7, 2001

On Oct 3, 2001, EDT, the TASS Mark IV unit named "MICHAEL" made its first observations of the night sky in Rochester, NY. I opened its little shed at the RIT Observatory about an hour after sunset, wheeled a table carrying monitor and keyboard next to the shed, and turned everything on.

My goal on this first night was simply to verify that all the equipment was working properly. The RA and Dec drives responded to commands, so I dared to take a set of images. I pointed the camera at a roughly 70 degree elevation, and roughly south; with the short exposure times I was using (5 seconds), this was good enough to prevent trailing.

Here's one of the first images, rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise so that North is at the top and East to the left. Click on the image for a larger, unrotated version.

After about 15 minutes of searching with XEphem, I found where in the sky the telescope was pointing: near the star "1 Peg", around RA = 21:14:20, Dec = +19:48:16.

The labelled stars are:

       A      1 Peg = HD 203504      B = 5.2  V = 4.1
       B              HD 202424          9.6      8.0    (variable)

The image shown above is way out of focus (but that helps to show the stars clearly). After playing with the focus, I was able to make one of the two cameras come into reasonable focus:

with a FWHM of less than 2 pixels:

That was about it for this first night. I didn't hook up the water coolant system, so the cameras were running hot.