AAVSO: American Association of Variable Star Observers

Using All-Sky Imaging to Improve Telescope Scheduling (Abstract)

Volume 45 number 2 (2017)

Gary M. Cole
Starphysics Observatory, 14280 W. Windriver Lane, Reno, NV 89511; garycole@mac.com


(Abstract only) Automated scheduling makes it possible for a small telescope to observe a large number of targets in a single night. But when used in areas which have less-than-perfect sky conditions such automation can lead to large numbers of observations of clouds and haze. This paper describes the development of a “sky-aware” telescope automation system that integrates the data flow from an SBIG AllSky340c camera with an enhanced dispatch scheduler to make optimum use of the available observing conditions for two highly instrumented backyard telescopes. Using the minute-by-minute time series image stream and a self-maintained reference database, the software maintains a file of sky brightness, transparency, stability, and forecasted visibility at several hundred grid positions. The scheduling software uses this information in real time to exclude targets obscured by clouds and select the best observing task, taking into account the requirements and limits of each instrument.