After a misty day and evening we finally opened up and got to work on mount alignment. Once aligned we did a quick test of tracking (about one pixel drift in 10 minutes, but we should do better), tried to take a picture of the Lagoon and Trifid Nebulae (which were only 20 deg from the full moon), and called it a night. Things are starting to work very well.
Sunday we rotated the telescope for better balance, installed the 110 megapixel science camera, installed seven filters: cyan, yellow, B, V, R, I, and H-alpha, rebalanced, and waited for the sky to clear. Finally, around 11pm the fog dropped enough (although it was still extremely humid) and we opened the dome and got our very first images. There is a lot of work yet to do, but the first ATLAS unit has all subsystems operational.
On Saturday we assembled the telescope corrector, cabled everything up, balanced the telescope, did a wee bit of carpentry(!), and slewed all over the sky to get a mount model with the DFM video camera. Things worked remarkably well, although there’s a lot remaining to do. We also managed to get our weather station on top of the Met building before the usual afternoon clouds and rain moved in. We were fortunate that the clouds dropped just around sunset and it cleared up for us.
Friday we lifted in the DFM telescope and very carefully assembled it. We inserted it into its center section that attaches it to the mount, inserted the field corrector, removed the mirror cell and attached the mirror, attached the mirror cell to the telescope, and called it a day. Tomorrow the Schmidt corrector goes in, we put in the camera, we balance, and if it’s clear we can align and start testing everything.
Meanwhile, Brian and Michael went over to Hawaii and managed the lift of the APM mount into the dome on Mauna Loa…
The telescope mounts from APM have finally been delivered after a four month sea voyage from Germany. The first one on Haleakala will carry the first ATLAS telescope, and the second one on Mauna Loa will carry our faithful Pathfinder for a few months until the second ATLAS telescope is shipped.
The concrete slab on which the NFIRE project dome sits was poured to support the generator (or construction office?) for the Air Force AEOS telescope. Here’s a picture from the official press release out of Kirtland Air Force Base in 2002: