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AZ mount recommendation for self steering high power UV laser calibration setup for a Cosmic ray observatory


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Hello! I am new here and have a kinda weird question for you guys.

I am a cosmic ray researcher with the Pierre Auger Observatory and I am building a UV laser system to calibrate some of our telescopes.


To do this, we need:

  • Self levelling powered steering AZ mount that hit point to the Zenith with high accuracy (most important) and also point to any zenith/azimuth angle we may need.
  • It would be great if it worked well with Linux
  • Battery power is a plus but we will have 24V DC available for the laser already so it is not critical
  • Can handle a payload which is ~10kg and 40cm long
  • Is less than 1000€ before tax

Is there any really reliable option that meets this criteria?

The mount we are currently looking at is the iOptitron AZ Pro but this is just past the 1000€ mark we want to hit.

I am really new at this sort of thing so any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!

Many thanks

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The weak point of all AZ mounts is around the zenith. For accuracy all astronomy mounts rely on calibration against the sky, so that is not the same as self leveling. Perhaps you should be looking at survey instruments as well?

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I am not sure what you mean by 'self levelling'.  It is however possible to attach a plate-solving camera accessory to some alt-azimuth GoTo mounts so that the mount will align itself to the stars automatically, without skilled human intervention.

As for battery power, almost all GoTo mounts require +12v DC power, which can be supplied from a +12v battery or derived from a mains powered supply unit.

I don't think there are many heavy duty alt-azimuth GoTo mounts in the price range you indicate.  One alt-az/Eq mount comes to mind, but nearly all the heavy duty mounts are of the equatorial type.

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16 hours ago, CosmicRayResearcher said:
  • Self levelling powered steering AZ mount that hit point to the Zenith with high accuracy (most important) and also point to any zenith/azimuth angle we may need.
  • It would be great if it worked well with Linux
  • Battery power is a plus but we will have 24V DC available for the laser already so it is not critical
  • Can handle a payload which is ~10kg and 40cm long
  • Is less than 1000€ before tax

i.m.h.o. these two are a non existing combination ... 

 

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On 12/02/2021 at 17:11, Stephenstargazer said:

The weak point of all AZ mounts is around the zenith. For accuracy all astronomy mounts rely on calibration against the sky, so that is not the same as self leveling. Perhaps you should be looking at survey instruments as well?

Survey mounts are a good lead, I will look in to them to see if there are any good options there, but for the time being we are still evaluating the AZ mounts.
Question on sky calibration. What optics are needed for this? It relies on the telescope for the measurements correct?

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On 13/02/2021 at 00:26, Cosmic Geoff said:

 It is however possible to attach a plate-solving camera accessory to some alt-azimuth GoTo mounts so that the mount will align itself to the stars automatically, without skilled human intervention.

Basically this. It also possible that we will develop a leveling system in house that can attach to the mount if we cant find what we need. The precision steering is what we wanted from the AZ mounts
 

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As for battery power, almost all GoTo mounts require +12v DC power, which can be supplied from a +12v battery or derived from a mains powered supply unit.

Thanks fro the info. This should be easy for us to satisfy with the laser PS

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I don't think there are many heavy duty alt-azimuth GoTo mounts in the price range you indicate.  One alt-az/Eq mount comes to mind, but nearly all the heavy duty mounts are of the equatorial type.

I am starting to see this is the case. Our payload is pretty light, but durability is key. We can hit higher prices without too much problem, but it slows us down. In your opinion what is the best value AZ mount?

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On 13/02/2021 at 08:41, Waldemar said:

i.m.h.o. these two are a non existing combination ...

This seems to be the case. Right now we have priced out the Optitron Pro which is quoted to us at ~1100€ + tax so I though maybe we could get under 1000 which speeds things up for us immensely. Right now,  unless Stephenstargazer's idea of using a survey mount works, we are probably going to buy the Optitron Pro. Do you like yours?

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On 12/02/2021 at 17:11, Stephenstargazer said:

The weak point of all AZ mounts is around the zenith. For accuracy all astronomy mounts rely on calibration against the sky, so that is not the same as self leveling. Perhaps you should be looking at survey instruments as well?

Follow up question on my part here. In truth we need something like < 1 degree error on zenith. Smaller numbers are nice, but since we hope to make many measurements at different places in a single night, an easy and fast setup has an advantage over higher pointing accuracies.

If self calibration without a telescope is not possible, we have a design for zenith and level alignment using a self built laser level based system. But again. If we can press a button and get 1 degree accuracy that is a huge benefit.

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41 minutes ago, CosmicRayResearcher said:

Follow up question on my part here. In truth we need something like < 1 degree error on zenith. Smaller numbers are nice, but since we hope to make many measurements at different places in a single night, an easy and fast setup has an advantage over higher pointing accuracies.

My Starsense camera system + alt-az GoTo mount regularly achieves an accuracy of better than +/- 15 minutes of arc without reference to the telescope.

By the way, I am not sure what exactly you intend to do with the laser, but aviation and police authorities in many countries take a very negative view of lasers directed at the sky.

 

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8 minutes ago, Cosmic Geoff said:

My Starsense camera system + alt-az GoTo mount regularly achieves an accuracy of better than +/- 15 minutes of arc without reference to the telescope.

This sounds very promising. We will look at this mount as well.
 

Quote

By the way, I am not sure what exactly you intend to do with the laser, but aviation and police authorities in many countries take a very negative view of lasers directed at the sky.

You are absolutely right to point this out. Luckily we already have the required permission. It also doesn't pose a risk to air travel as the laser is in UV (355nm) and is therefore very effectively blocked by airline windows. The laser is scattered quite effectively in the atm.


Just as a reference, the Observatory involved is this one https://www.auger.org/ We are the worlds largest cosmic ray detector and we already have a large array of lasers firing into the atm for similar purposes, but none are mobile.

The use case for this one is to use the scattered light from the laser beam as a calibration light source for our atmospheric florescence telescopes.

Edited by CosmicRayResearcher
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