A remote astronomical telescope can be controlled off-site by an observer
over the Internet, and is housed in an observatory with an automated
system for opening and closing the roof. All systems are
mechanical and controlled by computer. The telescope is also
capable of being programmed to operate robotically with preset commands
with no human interaction.
Piishii Observatory, owned by KAS member Mike Patton and housing the
KAS Remote Telescope, is a 20' x 20' observatory featuring an automated
motor-driven roll-off roof. It is capable of housing 4 telescopes mounted
on piers that are anchored in concrete bases sunk securely into the ground
and isolated from the observatory floor. The observatory is located at Arizona Sky
Village near the unincorporated community of Portal in
Cochise County, Arizona.
The main telescope chosen by the KAS is a PlaneWave Corrected Dall-Kirkham (CDK)
reflector equipped with a 20-inch quartz primary mirror. We were fortunate to be
able to go with the quartz mirror as it is asignificant upgrade from the Pyrex
mirror that is standard equipment on this model. Quartz is less prone to expansion
and contraction from ambient temperature differences and significantly improves image
quality. The telescope also has a carbon fiber light shroud and a dual carbon fiber
truss design that minimizes thermal expansion that can cause focus shift with changes
in temperature. One of the exceptional features of the CDK20 is that it is an instrument
that accommodates our project budget and has a large enough imaging plane for the large
format CCD camera that is part of our system. The telescope measures 47 inches in
length and weighs 140 pounds.
Mounted atop the CDK20 is a Takahashi FSQ-106EDX3 refractor. Constructed from the
ground up specifically for digital imaging, it is an exceptional flat-field super
quadruplet astrograph refractor that enables pinpoint stars along with enhanced field
illumination. Our FSQ-106 utilizes a CCD camera and filter system identical to that
used on the CDK20.
Both the CDK20 and FSQ-106 ride atop a Software Bisque Paramount ME II German equatorial
mount. Again, the KAS chose this mount because of its exceptional quality and durability;
like a watch, a mount needs to be steady and accurate. It has a very high accuracy in
positioning the telescope, is robust enough for our significant equipment load and can
position the telescope in a large sweeping arc across the sky. It also is a magnificent
shade of gleaming crimson!
Controlling the telescope, as well as transferring the images and data back to southwest
Michigan, is accomplished with basic off-the-shelf computer hardware. The
is specialized for use in a remote observatory. It controls all the basic
commands for the telescope, including focusing, imaging and guiding and will enable transmitting
information from the telescope via the Internet. In addition, it will oversee and control observatory
systems such as the roll-off roof mechanism.
About Arizona Sky Village
Arizona Sky Village
(ASV) is located 1.75 miles northeast of Portal, Arizona (a town of
about 100 people) and 109 miles east-southeast of Tucson. It was founded by noted
astrophotographer Jack Newton and developer Gene Turner in 2003. ASV is 450 acres in size and
sits in the foothills of the Chiricahua Mountains at the mouth of Cave Creek Canyon. It contains
85 lots and 11 time-share haciendas. In addition to being an excellent site for astronomy,
ASV is one of the premiere bird-watching locations in North America.
ASV is 4,545 feet above sea level, ensuring low humidity. The average high temperatures range from 90º F
in the summer to 58º F in the winter. Total annual precipitation is only 17.4 inches, most of which is
during the monsoon season from mid-June to mid-August. The region boasts at least 300 clear nights a year
(compared to only 70 for Michigan). The Coronado National Forest is just west of ASV and is about 1.78 million
acres in size. National forest land cannot be developed, so ASV will stay dark for the foreseeable future.
How dark are the night skies above the ASV? According to the Clear Sky Chart light pollution rating
ASV ranks 2 on the Bortle Scale
. Phenomena like gegenschein are
visible, and the zodiacal lights can be annoyingly bright. The Milky Way casts shadows and clouds look like
black holes in the sky. The limiting naked eye magnitude is better than 7.
The KAS Remote Telescope was made possible because of generous donations and grants from our members,
local institutions, and the general public. In all, we raised over $122,000 during our 7-year fundraising
campaign that began in 2011 (the majority of those contributions came from our own membership). Thank you
to everyone that supported this historic project.