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AAVSOnet Details

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HQA's picture
AAVSOnet Details

I thought I'd start a thread separate from the status messages.  Perhaps we can continue the low-level questions here!

AAVSOnet was designed from the beginning to be something different from any other telescope network:

- access was to be free to members.  However, they were to be used for scientific purposes only, not deep sky imaging, and a simple proposal process was required to get time on the network.

- there is a homogeneous set of smaller telescopes, the Bright Star Monitors, to study stars between about 2 < V < 10.  These telescopes were to have a variety of filters to handle many different projects, including grating spectroscopy.  These telescopes were also inexpensive, so that additional BSMs could be added to the network by individual amateurs.

- larger telescopes were envisioned to be multi-purpose, including imagery as well as spectroscopy.

- all aspects of AAVSOnet, from accepting proposals to sending processed images, is either automated or handled by volunteers.  Right now, we have volunteers who manage the hardware, operate the telescopes, and inspect the images.

- telescopes were to be distributed worldwide, with some hope of continuous 24hr observation under exceptional circumstances.  (Additional sites in Spain/South Africa/India/Russia/etc. would really be nice...)

- ACP Expert is used to optimally schedule observations.  Multiple researchers gain access to the network every night, as opposed to block-time scheduling.  (thanks, Bob!)

- did I mention that access is free?

The network is not complete, and has many issues that need to be addressed.  Scheduling and maintenance of the queues is not handled elegantly.  The HQ pipeline is "fragile" and manual intervention is needed whenever a hardware problem takes place (bad flats, incomplete transfer from the remote site, etc.).  Monitoring activity, especially the automated aquisition of flats, is very difficult to do automatically, so humans are typically needed.  Funding is always an issue.  Finding good people to "head" the network is hard, as the perfect person is a professional astronomer who also has engineering and software degrees, and manages large groups of people well.  Keeping web pages current, updating software, working with researchers, all takes time and care.  I gave up day-to-day control of AAVSOnet over a year ago because it needed more attention and fresh ideas than I was able to contribute.

Breaking the BSM telescopes off into their own section makes perfect sense, as these telescopes are nearly identical and programs based on their capabilities have broad appeal across the professional, amateur and educational arenas.  The Working Group gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation at the SAS meeting that I hope they put on the web somewhere soon.  Several people raised their hands at that meeting to be volunteers.   I'm looking forward to what Mike Nicholas and his team develop!



lmk's picture

As the host/operator of BSM-Hamren, I would like to add my own observations regarding future direction of the BSM systems.  Based on my experience here, the enclosure, a proper and reliable one, is a very important factor for effective and efficient usage.

At initial installation, we built a simple and inexpensive one, but it did not hold up well in this humid, wet, windy, oceanic climate. For some time now, the BSM has been operating in a "temporary" shelter, on the leeward side of our house, partly under the roof overhang. This arrangement seems to have become semi-permanent in practice! It is reasonably protective, but more than half of the sky is blocked and unusable.

The other serious shortcoming of such minimal enclosure, is the scope is quite limited in usage time during the nights. Since I must manually open it and watch the weather, it runs only during my evening waking hours. The best, clearest morning hours are thus unused, and the BSM probably gets to operate for only 1/3 of its theoretically available clear operating time!

So, based on my experiences, it would be extremely valuable to have a "turnkey" enclosure available at all BSM sites. Easily installed, robust against the weather, with automated remote opening/closing ability, and a sky cloud/moisture sensor. Such systems are certainly available and used at many remote sites today, but would obviously need the investment of sufficient AAVSONet funds and resources to obtain and implement.

Such state-of-the-art enclosures would have a major impact on increasing usable observing time at BSM-Hamren, for sure.



nmi's picture
Thanks for keeping the BSM-Hamren running


Hawaii is an important site, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that.  I appreciate your identifying improvements. As the team settles in I'll bring your suggestions to the docket and keep you updated with progress.  And, most importantly, thank you for your effort keeping the site running.


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