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Observing on Kauai

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#26 hm insulators

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 12:53 PM

Hopefully you can get those telescopes up and running! Sounds like you'll be having fun playing with them, especially the one in Princeville.

Do try to get to the south side of Kauai for observing as well, as Princeville is on the north shore by Hanalei, so you will get more rain there and the mountains will block off the southern horizon. One thing you'll be amazed at is how GREEN everything is on the island, particular the rainier east and north shores.

Before you go, rent a DVD of The Descendents if you haven't already seen the film. As mentioned earlier, part of it was filmed in Hanalei, just a few miles from where you'll be staying. I've not visited the island since I moved back to the Mainland (don't ever say "Back in the States"--Hawaii is a state) in 1986, but judging by The Descendents, Hanalei looks just the same now as it did back then, which is probably identical to what it looked like in say, the 1940s. And the people living in the area like it that way, thank you very much.

(To get to Hanalei you have to drive across a little one-lane cantilever truss bridge that recently celebrated its 100th birthday. Every so often, the powers that be for both Kauai County and the state of Hawaii make noises that they would really like to replace that bridge and widen the road to Hanalei so that the big tour buses that won't fit on the old bridge can get there. And the people in Hanalei scream bloody-blue murder about it. "NO WAY ARE YOU WIDENING THAT ROAD FOR TOUR BUSES!!!")

And who knows, after you get back to Maryland, maybe you and your family just might feel the desire to chuck it all and move to the islands yourself. (In Hawaii, you don't have to shovel coconuts. :grin:) That's exactly what my parents and I did in 1979. My father had a nice-paying job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and my mother was a secretary for some other outfit in Pasadena, and after one visit to four or five islands in Hawaii for their 25th anniversary in 1977, they quickly decided that A: Kauai was their favorite island by far, and B: "We want to go back there on a one-way ticket!" They took me to Kauai on a visit in 1978 and asked me if I'd be interested in living there. The idea sounded intriguing at the time, so in 1979, my parents resigned from their jobs, we had a huge yard sale and got rid of a lot of stuff, and the rest we moved lock, stock and barrel to Kauai. I liked living on a small rural island for a while, but eventually got fed up with it and moved back to California in 1986. My folks stayed on the island until 1993. I still keep in touch with a friend of mine in Kilauea (a town near Princeville and Hanalei not to be confused with Kilauea Volcano which is on the Big Island) via e-mail.

#27 SkipW

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Posted 17 July 2013 - 09:58 PM

That little patch of land just offshore from the Kilauea Lighthouse is the northernmost point in Hawaii. I was in Hanalei a couple of years ago, and it's still like it's depicted in The Descendents. Same as 15 years before that.

Startraffic, that's awesome! A 14" RCX under a dome in Kauai? Awe. Some! Near Princeville may not be the best location on the island, but still... wholly carp!!

Reviving and completing the network of observatories would be a great achievement and a great tribute to "Mr. D". I have experience with computer control of telescopes, but not remote control (I'm right there to stop the madness and set things right when Bad Things Happen), but let me know if I can help. There are plenty here that have actual relevant experience with remote control, so I hereby volunteer their services for this totally cool project :cool:.

#28 Startraffic

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 12:37 AM

Skip,
I may have to do just that. The only Meade mount I've ever used was really bad DS114. Soft plastic Alt/Az fork on a tinfoil tripod & a 4"f10 byrd-jones OTA so I know this will be a learning experience. I've downloaded the manual & I've been slogging my way through it. Not a fun read. I'm really holing I don't have to dismount it. This beast is HEAVY! I thought my HGM was bad, but thing is a brute. At least mine will break down into 2 #30 pieces. This won't & if I have to to a clean & relube, I might be in trouble.
I'll see what condition the NJ system is in this weekend & what kind of comm system needs to be set up. I'll use that as a best case for the other scopes. I'd like to keep the system architecture that has been begun the same. Same gear everywhere, K.I.S.S. priinciple.

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#29 Startraffic

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Posted 24 July 2013 - 02:41 PM

Ok, so I'm back from NJ with the update.
That mount IS a Meade RCX-400 with a 14" Schmidt-Cassegrain. It was inside of a 11ft Exploradome. It was still in the original plastic because the dome wasn't finished being installed. Good & Bad. I powered it up & the electronics all work. The mount was for all intents & purposes, frozen. The grease was almost like concrete. Mr. "D" was an engineer & had made arrangements for maintenance (God Bless Him). He had an "A" frame with a winch made to lift the whole thing off the mount & swing it into a cradle on a cart for transport stored along one wall. Worked like a charm. He also had a fully equipped workbench for maintenance. I was able to tear the drive down to find the goo that was causing the movement problems. I removed most of this & will be back to finish it up ASAP. Definably not before the end of August. The mount is the lesser of the problems. I wasn't allowed to take the mount with me for further servicing. Everything has to be done on site. :crazy: I couldn't find any EP's anywhere, but the optics appeared to be clean. No obvious mold or dust, & the dome itself was sealed up with the HVAC system working.
The ED dome is installed but none of the automation. In fact, the shutter & Dome were bolted in place, probably to keep them from being accidentally opened or rotated by the weather. I know nothing about the ED but I'll have to learn. All of the motion system & controls have to be installed.
There is no computers, modems, cameras, UPS, or communications in the Obs except for 2 telephone lines, with the numbers disconnected. All of that will need to be obtained and installed. Almost but not quite like starting from scratch.
The NJ Observatory is built to be an astronomers dream. It's on the roof, but the pier goes all the way down through the house & is isolated from the house for its' entire length. Some 50 FEET of sand filled galvanized STEEL Pipe! :jawdrop: I found the Construction drawings for the Base & Pier, I am impressed. The "plug" is 4ft x 16ft deep (yes, 7.5 cubic YARDS of concrete!), 3/8" rebar double helically reinforced with 3/4" rebar vertical reinforcements. The "Pier" is 1/2'thick & tapers from 30" at the base to 12" at the top over its' 50ft length and is bolted to the plug by 8 2-1/2"Dx6ftL 'J' bolts. I have no idea how he got that the middle of the house AFTER it had already been built, but he did. It ain't gonna move I can tell you that. The Obs room has a 9ft workbench on one wall, a desk in the corner & an equipment rack system along the adjoining wall. Some 9ft of workspace and 8ft of 6ft tall 19"equipment racks. The floor is radiant heat & is probably not the best choice for an Obs, but there is a local thermostat so I'll set that to 90* in the summer & 40* in the winter. A/C is a separate forced air system but on its' own compressor.
I'm putting together another toolkit that will include several tubes of Superlube that I'll take with me to Kauai next month. I have to be able to get that Obs up & running right away to show that it can be put back into operational condition or they may be scrapped & the domes removed. I won't be able to travel back & forth to get it running, I'll have one week which also has to include a Scuba trip & some site seeing. I have a couple of CCD's & my 90mmf4 IOptron that I've used on my HGM-200 as a GS that I'll take with me to use as a imager & guider. The Computer, Router, USB Hub, etc., I'll get there. More $$$, but I won't have to carry it with me through security. Mr 'D's son 'R' remembers his dad showing him some stars on a visit there before he passed. So at the very least, the dome itself should be operational.
I was dismayed at the condition of the RCX. It was not at all in the condition I would've expected from a piece of equipment that had been essentially in storage. The Grease was especially bad. It had turned into a very thick viscous goo that was almost tar. The next time I'm up I'll take along some kerosene to cut it. It was that bad.

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#30 csrlice12

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Posted 24 July 2013 - 03:03 PM

Especially check the optics/mirrors on the scope in Kauai, all that salty air could have corroded the mirrors after 15 years.

#31 Startraffic

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 01:15 PM

I was pleasantly surprised by the optics in the NJ scope. They were spotless, but I would've been surprised if they weren't since they still had the dust cover on them, & the plastic plug in. I seriously doubt the scope was ever used considering the dome couldn't open or move. I'm really hoping that the Kauai scope is usable.

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#32 Startraffic

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 02:42 PM

OK I'm back!
Kauai was fantastic, beautiful scenery, beaches, snorkeling, diving, & as luck would have it, mostly clear skies! This on an island that gets 600 inches (yes 1540cm) of rain a year! But enough of the travelog.

The observatory is a 10ft fully automated ProDome with a Meade 14" RCX400. The optics had been shut down & sealed some 15-16yrs ago & were spotless. :jump: When I powered it up, the electronics came up & seemed to be ready to go, but the mount wouldn't move. The motors were trying but couldn't move the mount. I was able to dismount & move the the entire mount & optics to the workbench alone thanx to the cradle arm & hoisting system that "Mr. D" had fabricated. 1 person, me, (I'm 53yo, 5'9" & 145#, not a big guy at all) not even a barked knuckle. Keep in mind the mount & optics weigh in at over 150# & really aren't designed to be disassembled. I disassembled the drive & found the grease was most similar to concrete. A bit of 83 octane was able to dissolve it & superlube made it run buttery smooth. Total time for the clean & relube was about 8 hrs. Not too bad for the 2nd time of messing with this type of mount. :smirk:
The dome itself however, is a completely different matter. The rollers, motors, gears and cables were not stainless steel, just HSS and the dome wasn't completely sealed. As a result of the salt & moisture infiltration everything has corroded into useless rust. The entire dome motion system needs to be replaced. :gottahurt: Adding insult to injury is the control system is also corroded to the point the the wiring fell apart when touched. Very bad, complete loss. There was no computer, camera or communication system in the dome, only a disconnected phone line. :foreheadslap: :help: In the interest of keep as much moisture as possible out of the dome, I didn't try to open the shutter or move the dome. I could see the bearings in the rollers were nothing but rust. I bought some foam pipe insulation and a good dehumidifier that now will drain to the outside. It was able to bring the humidity down to ~20%RH and I also found a dessicant plug for the scope. Both are on a RH sensor.
Mrs. 'D' is willing to let me come out again to repair the dome & bring it back into operation but, I pay for everything related to the obs operation from there, all repairs, maintenance, & communications costs. I get airfare, & lodging for a week once a year. :shocked: :bawling: :D :brick:
I spoke with her about the last Obs and she would prefer that I get the scopes I've already looked at back in operation and working without any problems before I go there. Makes a lot of sense, I plan to get a complete set of motion control systems for each dome considering what I've seen at the NJ, NV, & HI domes. so since this will made 5 ProDomes total, including mine, things are going ot add up very quickly, I'll need to find a good source for sealed bearings for the wheels. The old ones look like they were from a set of roller blades. The motors look like they are motors from a cars' windshield wiper system, not very impressive. I'm going to look at other options than the TI system. Looks a bit like something Mickey & Minnie would have Goofy & Pluto install. I'll use my dome as a test bed before propagating to the others. I can't afford any mistakes, The dome must work flawlessly & have a safe close failsafe just in case, especially for HI, 600 in. of rain is LOT of rain. I'll have to think of something.

More later

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#33 SkipW

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 07:41 PM

Aloha! Welcome home and thanks for the report. Sounds like QUITE a project!

#34 csrlice12

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 07:51 PM

Are their any astro clubs in the various locations that could help out with the various locations? Some would really consider it a real DIY effort, maybe offer them access to your data, pics, or even time with the scope. Some club might even have someone willing to keep a check on it while you're gone, and didn't you mention something about a research project? There's people here who'd do it just for the experience.

#35 Startraffic

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 06:42 PM

csrlice12,
Great minds... I floated this to "Mrs.D" & her Son "Mr.R" and their answer was "Absolutely not!" They don't have any problem with the domes being run as a remote system or the domes being "time shared" with other astronomers via the WEB. But the actual on site work is my problem. Keep in mind these domes are all a part of "Mrs.D's" private homes. She is elderly but very active, & obviously wealthy. Her privacy has been invaded on several occasions and she now guards it very closely. So if I want to get them up & running, I'll have to do the maintenance. A horrible thing as it will require me to go to each site at least once a year, & I'm sure Kauai & Bali will take me at least a week each to make sure they're running right. "Mrs.D" is willing to pay for my travel costs & let me stay at her homes, (a HUGE help not to be discounted at all) but anything else I need will be on me. To start I'm going to get the my dome & the Dome in NJ running, then Tahoe, then hopefully by next summer I'll be ready to do Kauai. What I hope to do is offer observing time on them to help defray some of the operating costs. I doubt they'll run in the black but preferably not in the red. (SWMBO would not be happy.) $$$ is currently hemorrhaging right now. I'm rehabbing my house, building my Prodome, sending my daughter off to college, learning to dive, yadada.

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#36 hm insulators

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 11:46 AM

It doesn't surprise me that the observatory's dome would be in such rough condition. Hawaii's climate is absolutely murder on metal, from cars to guitar strings. And of course Hanalei is on Kauai's north shore, so it gets lots of rain. Not the 600 inches that you mention; that is actually atop a mountain on the island called Waialeale (Wy-ah-lay-AH-lay), which averages "only" about 450 inches of rain, so it's still pretty soggy. But go just ten or fifteen straight-line miles toward the southwest to the little towns of Kekaha or Waimea, and there those little towns might get as much as 20 inches of rain a year--not much more than Los Angeles. It's funny the little microclimates on the island.

#37 Startraffic

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Posted 27 August 2013 - 12:28 PM

Yeah the 600inches is up on the mountain. The Dome is in Princeville so it gets wet a lot, and many times with little warning. I'll have to take that into consideration with the shutter mech. It'll have to be able to close fairly quickly to get the most observing time. Much to do.
I've started the process of getting my own ProDome going. It'll be on a 11ftx12ft deck & raised 18in above grade with a 10" metal pier to hold my Losmandy HGM-200, & a 16inx4ft deep rebarred base. The deck will rest on 16 6inx36in piers deep & 4inx4inx18 posts to hold the deck itself. I got a deal on some light grey Trex for the decking material, 250sqft for $75. The longest pieces are only 7 ft though, I'm thinking of making 4 sets of diagonals. Should be ok. I'll make a 2x4-6 base ring to bolt the walls to. The pier will go through a 11in hole to isolate it from the deck. Power through a trench to the deck, through conduit into the dome, through liquid tight flex pipe to the pier for power & communications. I'd started a thread on this awhile ago http://www.cloudynig...5802330/page... & will continue updates on that project there.

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