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SpaceView DARPA Project

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#1 John Wunderlin

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 11:57 PM

Interesting blurb I just read about a DARPA-funded project looking for amateur astronomers with current observatory setups. I signed up, but there isn't a lot of detail yet on the site.

#2 Galaxyhunter

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 06:54 AM

I wonder if this is something that we do ourself, or is this something that they control automaticaly when our Observatory is sitting idle?

#3 Raginar

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 07:21 AM

I imagine it'll be a mixture of both? Historical data into a database along with real time updates based on what they find with radar?

Looks like a neat project.

#4 StarmanDan

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 12:55 PM

Neat! Just signed up too.

#5 John Wunderlin

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 01:00 PM

Reading between the lines it sounds like they control the observatory and we can use it when they're not... I'm not sure I'm willing to go that far. I may be willing to build a secondary dome, though my very understanding wife may have an issue with that.

#6 frolinmod

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 02:53 PM

It's just a website. Looks like a good way to collect information on potential theft targets.

#7 John Wunderlin

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 03:17 PM

Are you suggesting it's website set up to collect information to steal our equipment? I don't think that's one of DARPA's mission objectives!

Here's a link straight to DARPA's website describing the project if that helps...

http://www.darpa.mil...talOutlook.aspx

#8 John Wunderlin

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 03:23 PM

Oops- here's a better link

http://www.darpa.mil...2012/11/09.aspx

#9 Starhawk

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 04:06 PM

I spent some time talking to these guys at ASAE this weekend. They are completely serious, and what they are proposing is the following deal:

Find advanced amateur astronomers- people with some ability.

Provide them with a "Kit" to run an observatory. Here is what the kit does:

Auto sequencing of observatory.
Auto control of equipment.
Auto plate solves and follow-ups.
Advanced mount control for arbitrary tracks (e.g. satellite tracks).
Also usable for "Just looking around."

What the amateur gets out of this:

Vastly simplified equipment integration and operation.

Stand-alone robust operation capability with plate-solves and resolution of known objects versus new ones.

Ability to do direct science.

What SpaceView gets:

Data on orbiting objects caught by amateurs. They are trying to characterize the true debris hazard and it's a big job.

I proposed they consider a couple more carrots they could offer to amateurs (especially since the data would be collected, anyway):

Auto-notify of new objects found, such as asteroids and comets.

Put in the ability to work in observing targets of interest to get nice pix- for example, have it work in some data on M45 and M42 while it's at it.


At the moment, they are trying to determine what amateurs' capabilities are to try to work with us more effectively.

-Rich

#10 Mike I. Jones

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 06:15 PM

Will they build me a 2.2 meter scope in a nice dome at my place so they can use it when I'm not? To that I'd say, SURE!

:)
Mike

#11 Mirzam

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 06:30 PM

I'd want to read the fine print first. (If you read the whole link there is some pretty hilarious stuff).

http://en.wikipedia...._Daniel_Webster

JimC

#12 David Pavlich

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 10:22 PM

Will they build me a 2.2 meter scope in a nice dome at my place so they can use it when I'm not? To that I'd say, SURE!

:)
Mike


Hey Mike!! You're in a perfect position to have someone fund an automated obs for you. You're right in the middle of building a heckuva' dandy observatory and with the right stuff installed, you could have a top flite research facility going there. How cool would that be?!

David

#13 Tom Polakis

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 02:42 PM

I spoke with them at ASAE as well. It wasn't a big trip for them, since they're based in Tucson. From what I could gather, they're the real deal, with some DARPA money. Rich's summary a few posts above is very good.

One thing that was not obvious to me was why they wanted longitude coverage. Why not just site all of the observatories in the Southwest U.S.? The answer became obvious when they pointed out that orbital debris is only visible when it's illuminated by the sun, or within a couple hours of twilight. They can do the most comprehensive job the most quickly by being able to monitor the space junk around the globe, observing in pre-dawn hours at each site.

Regarding their hours of operation of your scope, their pitch is that they would be using it when amateurs are least likely to want to use it, in the couple hours before morning twilight. With mounts becoming more commonly robotic with scripted operation, I'm not so certain that there are high- or low-demand hours of operation anymore. It should be interesting to see how this plays out for them.

Tom

#14 John Wunderlin

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 03:02 PM

I emailed them for more information. They said they are starting with just a single site for about 9 months as a proof of concept, then will add about a dozen more sites in the following year and hope to increase to more than 100 over the following years. They also said there will be a regular newsletter going out to everyone who signs up.

#15 Starhawk

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 09:51 AM

To get DARPA money, you have to solve a difficult problem. They are looking for orbital debris, which is largely characterized by radar at the moment, and folks have been realizing this may be very inaccurate as large portions of spacecraft are nonmetallic, and the radars have severe range limitations.

Anyway, if it ends up producing a well integrated observatory control suite, it would seem to me to be a good thing.

It's how Internet got its start, you know.

-Rich

#16 rrapier

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 01:16 PM

What excites me most is that if they build a network of automated observatories, they will in essence have the system set up to turn amateur sites into a massive array for whatever we as a community want to do. Its all fun to play with your own setup, but what if there was a network that allowed you to take control of other setups (with consent of course). I believe that the next step in amateur astronomy would be to allow us to all take part in actual science when we are not using our observatories, or to allow us to do real science at a whim.

On a side note, wouldn't it be great if all this gear was a tax write off because it was used for research? Haha

#17 Starhawk

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 11:39 PM

Yes- and they are completely happy to help make that a reality.

And you never know- that may be a tax write-off. Having navigation equipment on your land is. Hmm- I'll suggest they look into that.

-Rich

#18 Startraffic

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 01:47 PM

John,
I'm in, I haven't heard anything back yet though.

Clear Dark Skies
Startraffic
39.138274 -77.168898
Alt 518ft ASL

#19 Mary B

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 05:38 PM

I signed up too, have a pretty dark location out here in SW MN.

#20 JAT Observatory

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 08:04 AM

So a couple of days ago I got a newsletter via email from Spaceview as I'm sure all who signed up did.

Included in the newsletter was a survey they wanted you to take about what software you use so I decided to take it. All the usual suspects were there TheSky, MaxIm DL, ACP, CCD Autopilot etc. When I got to the bottom of the list I found JAT Observatory listed!

While I have written some custom scripts and a observatory control GUI, I hardly classify as a software manufacturer.
It is interesting though that on the original sign-up form I mentioned I wrote some custom software that controls my system.

There are also a few copies of my GUI and scripts out there that I have provided for a few systems over the years, but that software needed to be customized for each specific system in order for it to work. That is because of how my software was written, it is rather crude (port address and such are hard coded). But there are only a handful of copies of it out there.

So now I have to poll those people to see if they signed up and if they mentioned my software in the process since Spaceview listed it. I don't think just me mentioning it for my own system would be enough for it to make the list. I have to admit it was kinda cool to see my observatory listed. Hopefully I'll get to add a Spaceview button to my GUI. :praying:

#21 JJK

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 09:43 AM

Are you suggesting it's website set up to collect information to steal our equipment? I don't think that's one of DARPA's mission objectives!

Here's a link straight to DARPA's website describing the project if that helps...

http://www.darpa.mil...talOutlook.aspx



How else is the Fed going to raise cash? :grin:

#22 Raginar

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 10:57 AM

JJK, funny. JAT, that is funny. I was trying to figure it out when I saw it on the survey :).

Has anyone actually been contacted by them? Or are they only going after the heavily automated guys so far?

#23 1965healy

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 01:15 AM

Signed up!

#24 Hilmi

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 08:48 AM

The mad scientists at DARPA always do cool research. My worry is that they usually fund cool research with the aim of developing cool military tech. I would rather not be involved in research that will eventually be militarized.

#25 JAT Observatory

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 01:40 PM

And what else exactly would you expect a group that is funded by the DoD to do? If you really feel that way you should also throw away and stop using some of the cool thing like the internet and GPS.






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