Sola Virtus Observatory

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Still waiting on backordered dome from Australia. With pandemic still ongoing there is no ship date at this time.


All repairs have been made. Weather Cams, wireless repeater, UPS System and PC have been replaced.


Found further electrical damage from lightning strike. Repairs have been extended to July 23, 2019. Cams will be offline until repairs are complete.


A lightning strike on July 17, 2019 destroyed the weather cams, 1 computer, wireless repeater, UPS system and a few GFI's.  Repairs should be completed on July 20, 2019....


The new dome to replace the damaged one is still on back order. Scopes will remain on the portable mounts until the new dome arrives...ugh...The Davis consoles have been randomly dropping the wireless anemometer transmitter signal. After checking the obvious it has been determined that the signal is too weak at time to reach the consoles. All was well until a few days ago. Ordered a repeater to boost the signal


The Observatory will eventually be replaced due to the inoperable and unrepairable hatches. The damaged Meade main scope has been removed and scrapped. 


After doing some upgrades to the Meade LX 200 ACF GPS the past few weeks, the Wind Storm that hit my area Thursday night thru Saturday blew the shutter off on the Observatory letting Rain and then Snow pour in. The hatch guides & rollers were ruined in the process which won't allow the hatch to sit properly on the dome. I pinned the hatch back on to cover the opening but there is a huge gap in the back and small gaps on the sides that will leak. I cannot get parts or a new hatch as the company that made the Dome went out of business a few years ago. The Meade was flooded, all its electronics are ruined & the mirrors are hazy and one appears to have grease on it. The inside parts have also begun to rust. That scope is done along with the Coronado PST. The water also tripped all the GFI circuits knocking out the weather computer and possibly damaged the 12v rack mounted power supply. There was also some damage to the house. Watching the Davis console I saw  a 67 mph wind gust, likely there were some higher gusts. Waiting on insurance adjuster.


Installed new UPS System for Observatory Computers...


Main UPS System in Observatory was fried by multiple power spikes over a 36 second time period. Everything is temporarily running on a smaller UPS used for low wattage peripherals. I Will be installing a new UPS around December 30th 2017.


The Barn Cam and North Cam both died on 10.13.17... Friday the 13th....that's too good to make up. I did restore functionality of the North Cam but the Barn Cam could not be revived . Not replacing it for the time being.


Adjusted Solar Scopes for upcoming eclipse.


Removed and replaced Davis anemometers. These things do not hold up. Needs a redesign like their antiquated Weatherlink software.


Cub Scout Outreach was held today. Cub Scout Pack 156 in Pennsylvania came out to see the Observatory and get some hands on experience in astronomy. Weather was not the best but Kids and parents alike still had a good time.


The Observatory cam that faced southeast failed and has been removed. Not going to replace it.


Setup snowboard for the coming winter.


Installed 6500K Bias Lighting behind monitors in control room.


Reinstalled the Meade SCT on the mount.


The Observatory took an indirect lightning strike damaging all the GFCI receptacles. Replaced all GFCI receptacles.


Installed new video monitor on pier for the MallinCam imaging camera. Rewired and updated rack mount components. Will be using a CoCoRaHS approved snow weighing scale.


Built 2 S-Pipe Aspirated Radiation Shields with remote sensor packs. Each pipe has a 12v DC fan. These will be independent of the Davis Stations and will be used for calibration and augmented tracking of temp, humidity and barometric pressure. Installed Solar Panel to charge the battery that runs both fans and the sensor packs when there is not enough sun to power them.


Relocated the DIY Radio Telescope to the NW corner of Observatory and raised the height of the Sky Quality Meter.


Installed 3 new HD monitors and a  new Dell Desktop with 8GB Ram as the main computer for the control room. All the PC's except the Laptop are now mounted under the desk and off the floor with wall mount brackets. Unfortunately it came with Windows 8.1 which sucks big time. What idiots thought this OS up. I mean seriously.  Windows 10 may be installed if it will work with the weather and astronomy software.


Made a new Observatory Control Room. All the weather station consoles and other equipment are not  wall mounted. Also installed new WP Aneroild Barometer and MicroTim Altimeter Barometer. Modified an old weather station color console to diplay the Davis Console info in RBG updated every 5 min. Installed new red lighting with dimmer. In the dark the Davis Console is hard to read without the backlight which interferes with my night vision. The modified color console can be dimmed or turned off and can be viewed in red light. Also modified a spare HD PC monitor so it can be wall mounted with other equipment  to use for viewing what the telescopes actually see thru the imaging cameras.


Added new scripts to my weather software.  Installed new weather cam on the barn roof. I was asked a few weeks ago to contribute data to ACON JHU Applied Physics Lab. They also wanted my 2014 data as well.  So very cool....


Lightning struck the Observatory for the third time. It took out 2 cams, an antenna, 2 GFI receptacles and a cloud sensor. I swapped a critter cam out for the Observatory cam that got fried. The meteor cam was basically destroyed, it did however capture part of the strike before it demise. May it rest in pieces. New cams and an antenna are on order.


Replaced the Lexan window on the Weather Sky Cam enclosure. Reassigned the snow cam to a critter cam for the warm months.


Decided to install Soil Sensors for the Davis Vantage Pro2 Plus. I installed one Soil/Leaf Station and 4 Soil Temperature and Soil Moisture sensors and will install the Leaf Wetness sensor next week. The data is actually rather interesting. I haven't had time to continue working on the DIY Radio Telescope but will as soon as time permits.


Installed a new Unihedron Sky Quality Meter and outdoor enclosure. The SQM-LU measures the brightness of the night sky. It records measurements in a number of ways but the most common Magnitude per Square Arc Second and Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude or NELM. The higher the number in MPSAS or NELM the darker the sky is. A measurement above 21.5 is considered very dark. Data is also sent to Light Pollution Monitoring Stations and uploaded to the website every 30 minutes. The Meter is idle during the day.


Working on a DIY radio telescope. The dish is done just have to wire everything up when time and weather permit and see if it works.


Replaced the meteor camera housing.


Installing Davis Vantage Vue weather station and communication gear in chase vehicle for upcoming chase trip.  Weather outlook will determine the trip date.


Installed new cloud sensor, replaced old rain gauge with a new Stratus. Experimenting  with a homemade cloud base height sensor.


Oy! Moonglow ASC Uploader failed again on uploading images to my server and All Sky Error log full of failed upload attempts. If this continues I may try Fling to send it to my server. Sending it to ALL Sky Cam may not work that way.


Installed new  Dell Inspiron 1 TB PC. Installing WeatherLink was simple, Virtual Weather Station software took a little work. Making Moonglow ASC Uploader software work is a nightmare. This is a very poorly scripted piece of software and technical support is almost zero.. Not a big fan of this camera because of these issues.  It didn't work correctly on the old PC either.


Lightning Detector is repaired. Detection range is now extended to about 40 miles.                       


Reinstalled repaired MoonGlow All Sky Camera. The first one arrived with a cracked glass dome when unpacking it....It is now registered at All Sky and contributing images....Lightning Detector under repair. There appears to be an intermittent loss of ground.


Installed outdoor GFI receptacle on Observatory. Installed 4 red LED lights on each corner of Observatory deck to increase safety when walking to Observatory on very dark nights.


Replaced Mitsubishi A/C unit exhaust vent shutter with new schedule 40 pvc pipe to allow better air flow and redirect exhaust.


The Telescope Cam was replaced with a new one and is operational again.


The SkyCam is back up and running so the headless dog is gone. Also installed new router. However the telescope cam hates the new router so that camera is temporarily down.


This is only a test of the SkyCam system.....There is no headless dog in the sky cam image. In the event you see a headless dog you may have eaten the wrong type of mushroom. (No animals were harmed during the testing of the SkyCam)


The Axis 221 SkyCam has been dying a slow death the last several days and is now toasted. The image placeholder will be blank while the camera is at the factory to determine if it can be repaired. 


Did minor upgrade to heater in weather station rain bucket.


The observatory dome and alignment encoders will be replaced in the spring.


Neoworx counter restored.


Neoworx counter went crazy last few days from a script error on the Neoworx site. Switched counters


Finally received new LX-80 mount for solar scopes after  over 1 year back order. Nice mount but has a somewhat unfinished appearance.  LX-800 is still on back order after almost 2 years. Come on Meade.


Hurricane Sandy roared thru. The weather computer was damaged by a power surge.  The weather station came thru fine although the flag pole has a split in the metal near the base. Power and ethernet and wireless  connections were lost at points during the storm but a couple of wind gusts were over 70mph.


The Weather Station pole took a lightning hit on 07.26.12.  All the GFI receptacles were fused and DSL, data and telephone cables were damaged. The SkyCam wouldn't respond but after a full reboot was operational. The weather station survived without a scratch but no data could be uploaded to CWOP, MADIS, PWS, Weather Underground and the website. All repairs were completed today.


Cleaned and adjusted Observatory Weather Cam and moved to new location.


Had Cub Scout outreach day at Observatory. Weather held out and scouts got some awesome views of the Sun in H-Alpha and White Light.


Been waiting for new Meade LX-800 Telescope since October 2011.


Ordered new Meade LX-80 EQ mount for solar scope rig. Delivery time is Meade has this mount as a pre-order.


New Scope Buggy arrived. Solar scopes are now installed on new mount with mount attached to scope buggy.


Updated weather computer software.  Have new imaging computer for solar observing rig.  Need to fabricate a platform to attach to scope buggy to hold laptop.


The weather station ISS unit took an indirect lightning strike and turned the temp & humidity sensor into toast. Sensor was reading -32 degrees and no humidity data at all this morning. Decided to replace entire ISS unit instead of just the sensor since the unit is 7 years old. Should be up and running on 10.15.11 if it arrives as expected. Just odered new Observatory gear: Astro-Tech  65mm ED Quad Astrograph with Thousand Oaks White Light Filter, Lunt Solar Scope LS60Pressure Tuned Double Stacked with B1200 filter, Lunt Solar Zoom, Orion Skyview Mount and dual saddles for solar scopes, DMK 41 monochrome camera. In the Spring I will be adding a Meade 10 inch main scope with RC based optics and new mount.

09.22.11                                                                                                                                                            Website is now at new web host.  Over the next few months I will be overhauling the mount and replacing the large telescopes.


Working on moving website to new web host
The Observatory survived Hurricane Irene intact. The lightning detector was damaged and is on the disabled list. The weather cams took a beating but came thru just fine, however power was lost to the computers so data uploads were not completed
Verizon has decided to not allow ftp of any type...... Goodbye Verizon
The early onset of below normal temps will delay installing the new all sky cam. I have gathered all the necessary parts & will assemble over winter.  Ordered new rain cone for weather station. I have modified the old one by installing reptile heat cable to the bucket and inner cone and applying foil insulation. Will see if this setup will melt snow & ice to permit collection of precipitation data during very cold weather. The modified cone will be removed every spring and the unmodified cone installed.
Due to numerous problems with the old SBIG Allsky cam, it is being replaced. I am building my own using  what I think is a higher resolution camera & better meteor tracking software. Hope to have it built and installed before the winter weather sets in. Observatory up and running...
Will be installing new lightning detection and radar unit after it arrives. Will be solar powered to save energy. Ordered new wind sensor with data logger to be installed alongside Davis anemometer in spring 2011.
VWS weather softwares ftp function stinks. The past 2 weeks it hangs after 12 hrs. I am now using Fling to ftp the data to the website. Uploads are now lightning fast compared to VWS ftp function.
Shut down the temp control unit for winter.
Set up the Mak for imaging. Works very nice.
Not much observing or imaging getting done lately... Work seems to own me for the time being.
New mounts have arrived.
The sky cam is now operation & uploading to weather cams page.
All sky cam has been sent back for repair. The new weather sky cam is still not operational due to inclement weather. (Its just been too cold for me to freeze my whatever's off too wire it up.)
Relocated Boltek Lightning Detector. Old location was in nearby outbuilding, now resides near ISS sensor unit. Mounted the new sky cam & new weather cam weatherproof housings.
Installed new solar radiation & uv sensors on ISS unit. Sky Cam and a new weather  camera should be operational by end of November.
Seems my skycam  and observatory scope cam were hacked as well as the data uplink to NSL. I am upgrading my wireless network security and have disabled the skycam temporarily.
I've noticed the telescope camera is being moved by someone who has gained acccess to the controls, which should not be possible.  Also noticed increased bandwidth usage...
Not much observing lately. Work has kept me very busy & the weather this year has not cooperated with my time off.
The Astrograph choice is narrowed down to two scopes. While I'm taking my time making a decision, I'm not missing much action as the weather the past couple of months has been horrible to say the least and I still have my Mak operational.
The Celestron CPC1100 and the APT Astro Wedge are being offered for sale.  Sold
The mount waiting time is still an issue. Decison on new scope is made. The C11 will be sold and replaced by an astrograph devoted to imaging only. The Orion Mak will be for imaging & viewing.
CGE mount upgrade complete.  Still waiting on the MI mount. A defect in the first one required a return and I am waiting for a replacement.
Its a very sad day......One of my beloved dobermans had to be euthanized.  Sophie was one of the guardians of the property & part of the doberman protection system. Her health took a sudden turn downhill on 11-04-08 for reasons still unexplained.  She is greatly missed. Her passing has left a giant hole in my heart......Sophie's Tribute.
Not much new to report as of late.  I have decided to part with Celestron equipment do to a falling out over a repair which should have been made without question. The new mounts will be a Mountain MI500 and an AP Mach1 GTO.  Both mounts have a wait time. For the new scopes, since I have time on my hands, I'm still looking at all the different choices.  The new MAK however is a great find and excellent performer.
The new Mak  was sitting on my porch waiting for me to come home,  very nice scope, now if only the C-11 and GEM would arrive...
Installed Bob's Knobs.   I've also decided to take scope off the wedge & change to a GEM.  I may de-fork this one or sell & start new.
Installed the Astrotech diagonal.  Views are much improved. Scope alignment is off, reason unknown.
This camera's ftp protocol unlike my other 2 cameras, is causing a host of problems. One is getting the images to appear & update on my site pages.  While I can see the images on the server side ,others are seeing the "red x" when accessing my website.
Update:  They have obviously changed the camera programming in some way from the previous models. Changed  a bit of code to add images to site and they are refreshing nicely.
Web camera is now operational and uploads to the website via FTP every 60 sec.  Needs a better location.
Testing new camera
Some old buildings are being torn down on the farm behind my 3 acre field  the OB will eventually be sited on. Hopefully its just debris cleanup from a fire back in the fall. The farm house and such have been vacant for a few years. My fear has always been they are going to subdivide the land . That would ruin my dark skies for sure. The land is supposed to be in farm preservation, but a farm in preservation a few miles away was turned into a 30 home subdivision.
Setting up meteor cam & configuring for eventual data upload to AMS.
There is an ongoing Blue Screen issue with the main computer.  Dell may have to replace it.
Still waiting for the Canon 350D repair to be completed.
UPS left me presents. A new Astrotech 2" Diagonal, Orion 12mm Illuminated Recticle &  Orion Full Aperture Solar filter arrived today. My Canon 350D imaging camera has a program glitch so its "leaving on a jet plane" today.
Ordered red LED lights for the OB deck.
The Weather Station is now part of WXSPOTS weather spotter network operated by HAM & Amateur Radio.
The FARPOINT Weather program software got a needed a code correction. Updated the WeatherLink software to a newer version.
The Mitsubishi AC/Dehumidfier unit was removed for the winter. Seems it made a nice home to some spiders with an attitude. They seemed rather upset over the whole thing. But since I hate spiders, oh well...
Deer got up close and personable with the Weather Cam. No harm done.
Replaced the damaged 12v power converter
Power surge took out the Pyramid DC power converter.
Signal booster from Hawking Technologies arrived today. Weather Cam signal excellent.
Coronado PST Solar Scope and Losmandy Dovetail arrived today. Installation went well except one screw on front of the C11 was not tapped properly and is the wrong size. a trip to Home Depot found a correct size screw, but as I was finishing up I noticed small bits of shavings from the improperly tapped factory screw on the corrector plate and one tiny mote on the mirror. This will eventually have to be addressed, as the motes may show up when solar viewing or imaging.

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