Mountain Sky Observatory        (MSO)
 
The major objective of this project is to do unprecedented science by capturing time sensitive events and census transient objects.  Our current focus is on discovering supernovae and extrasolar planets.

This equipment is operated by our team and by also citizen scientists (a.k.a amateur astronomers).  Citizen scientists offer proposals for study and receive telescope time which is automatically queued up by a software scheduler. Presently, 50% of the observatory’s time is slated for outside research proposals. A key prerequisite is that all research data generated will be freely available to the entire science community.  Most observatories perform a single task, night after night. Our scheduler is unique in that it automatically moves among tasks in its list, prioritizing on current sky conditions and optimizing imaging opportunities unique to each task.
Mountain Sky Observatory is an unconventional private non-profit collaboration between neighbors Glenn Gaunt, Gene Augusto, and Sid Clements. Efforts began in Spring of 2012 to construct an astronomical observatory in the clear skies of Southwestern Colorado. Because of its remote location, a main design consideration is the ability to be remotely controlled from any location in the world.
Topics of Study
Supernovae Detection
Exoplanet Research
Spectroscopy
Robotic Control
Deep Field Imaging

Dome Status
Construction Phase:
April, 2012 - August 2012
First Light Planned:
April, 2013

Website Design
Glenn Gaunt
April, 2012

This project designed by Glenn Gaunt includes a 20-inch f/8.1 Ritchey–Chrétien  telescope (RC Optical Systems), Paramount ME German Equatorial Mount (Software Bisque, Golden, Colorado), and STL-11000M CCD Camera (Santa Barbara Instrument Group). Curiosity and imagination begets technology.


The Ritchey–Chrétien telescope  is a specialized research telescope. It contains a hyperbolic primary mirror and a hyperbolic secondary mirror which is designed to eliminate optical errors. Since these optics are a two mirror system, they have no spectral dispersion nor chromatic aberration. The two surfaces account for less light loss and increased sensitivity. Also, since no refractive optics are needed, they accommodate a larger spectral range from ultraviolet to long wave infrared. The telescope has a large field of view free of optical errors compared to a more conventional configurations. Since the mid 20th century most large professional research telescopes have been of this configuration. The carbon truss configuration offers little chance of trapping microclimate heat currents which serves to improve precision performance. The truss design also makes the telescope less vulnerable to fluctuations and movement due to wind.  The telescope is currently synchronized in time with the atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado.


In an age where many people don’t understand anything about our universe, and nobody understands everything about it, the observatory strives to be an important educational instrument. The universe is knowable. It permits secrets to be uncovered.


This observatory makes use of adaptive optics technology to remove  atmospheric  distortion  effects. Adaptive optics removes the “shimmering” of stars when looking through an atmosphere.





  Before...        and after Adaptive Optics


Observing schedules are based on ideal  conditions.  However, weather conditions are never ideal.  Our software scheduling program automatically works around the changes in weather, light, or rotational changes. A fresh discovery might require the robotic scheduler to ‘drop everything’ to respond to a new event.  Or, atmospheric conditions and optimal viewing angles will change the order of the current task list to optimize telescope results.  With a remotely controlled observatory, all of these things are taken in to account by the nature of the robotic telescope system.   This level of automation is something exciting and very new and it is in sharp contrast to the days when a dedicated astronomer stayed awake all night to manually adjust for conditions and dodge bad weather.

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Click here for link to Gene Augusto’s memorial page