Alt-Az Initiative

Past Meetings


Alt-AZ Initiative
Telescope & Instrument Developments
Scientific Research Programs
Student Research & Development as Education

Past Meetings

Contact Us

Initiative Overview           Conferences & Workshops        Tech Initiatives & Telescope Demos          Alt-Az Book and Papers


              Meter-class Astronomy - January 20-22, 2012
                 Telescopes from Afar - February 28 - March 3, 2011

    Light Bucket Astronomy
- Dec 2010-Jan 2011
                         Galileo's Legacy - January 2009
                       STAR Conference - June 2008


Portland V
Portland IV
Portland III
Pine Mountain Observatory

Pasadena AAS
Gemini Tour
Vancouver BC
Portland II
Pine Mountain Observatory
Gemini/Subaru II
Gemini/Subaru I
Dallas Alt-Az
RATT II Cloudcroft NM
Magdalena Ridge Observatory
STAR Workshop
Portland I

- July 2011
- July 2010
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- January 2009
- July 2008
- July 2008
- July 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- October 2007
- August 2007
- August 2007
- June 2007
- June 2007

  Click on the above links for a particular conference or workshop, or scroll down this page to see them all.


2012 Conference

Telescopes, Instruments,
and Observational Programs

2012 Hawaii Conference

Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Headquarters
January 20-22, 2012

Pre-conference Tours January 18-19, 2012
Click here to visit conference website


Co-chairs: Russ Genet and Bruce Holenstein
Tour of Volcanoes National Park 18 January
Insider’s tour of Mauna Kea Observatories 19 January
Mauna Kea observing session (HP) evening of 21 January

This conference was devoted to the development, instrumentation, and use of meter-class telescopes—with emphasis on lightweight, low cost telescopes in the aperture range of 0.5 to 2.0 meters. Advances in lightweight, low-cost meniscus, foam glass, and spin-cast epoxy mirrors were covered, as were low cost active primary and secondary mirror systems. The structural design of lightweight telescopes was examined with a detailed look at a recently designed portable 1.5 meter telescope that weighs less than 500 lb. Instruments and observational programs well suited to meter-class telescopes include high-speed photometry, near IR photometry, low resolution spectroscopy, and polarimetry. There was a special session on visual observations with meter-class telescopes. The conference concluded with a panel discussion on the current status and future prospects for meter-class telescopes, instruments, and observational programs.

Email contacts:,


Pre-Conference Tuesday 17 January, Early Arrival Get Together
5:00 PM Early arrivals gather for drinks and watch sunset, no host dinner at Bongo Bens, 75-6819 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona HI 06740, 808 329-9203. It is an easy walking distance from the Royal Kona Resort, 75-5852 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona HI 96740, 808 329-3111.

Pre-Conference Wednesday 18 January, Tour of Volcanoes National Park
8:15 Meet in Lobby Royal Kona Resort for tour participants
8:30 Depart Royal Kona Resort for Volcanoes National Park
10:00 Main museum/Thurston lava tube/crater rim
12:00 Lunch Kilauea Lodge, 19-3948 Old Volcano Rd, Volcano Village HI 96785,  2:00 Jager Museum
3:00 Depart Jager for Kona
5:30 Meet at Bubba Gump’s in Kona for no host sunset dinner, 75-5776 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona HI 06740,

Pre-Conference Thursday 19 January, Tour of Telescopes on Mauna Kea
8:15 Meet in Lobby Royal Kona Resort
8:30 Depart Royal Kona Resort for CFHT HQ in Waimea
9:30 Depart from CFHT Headquarters in Waimea for HP on Mauna Kea
10:30 Arrive HP Visitor’s Center
11:00 Lunch at HP
12:15 Depart HP for summit
1:15 Visit 10 meter Keck gallery (20 minutes, both groups)
2:00 Group #1 tour Gemini telescope / Group #2 tour CFHT (tours 45 minutes)
3:00 Group #1 tour CFHT / Group #2 tour Gemini (tours 45 minutes)
4:00 Depart summit for CFHT HQ Waimea
5:00 Depart CFHT HQ Waimea for Kona
6:30 Open Dinners

Conference Day 1, Friday 20 January
7:45 Meet at Royal Kona
8:00 Depart Royal Kona Resort for Waimea
9:00 Coffee at CFHT HQ for early arrivals
9:30 Session I Telescopes I
Welcome, Christian Veillet, Director CFHT
Conference administration, Bruce Holenstein, Gravic
Self introductions around the table
The Alt-Az Telescope Initiative: a personal perspective, Russ Genet, Cal Poly State Univ.
10:30-10:45 Break
The nature of telescope design, Mel Bartels, BB Astrosystems
PlaneWave Instruments developments, Dave Rowe, PlaneWave Instruments
Control systems: new life for old telescopes, Dan Gray, Sidereal Technology
12:15 Lunch
2:00 Session II Telescopes II
The Cal Poly 18 Direct Drive Robotic Telescope, Richard Berry, WVI *
Structural analysis of 1.5 meter telescope, Laura Rice, Cal Poly State Univ.
Telescope structures: 1.5 meter cell, Donny Mott, Idaho
3:15-3:30 Break
Overview of 0.75-m telescope project and requirements, Bruce Holenstein & Russ Genet
0.75 meter-class telescope design panel discussion Moderator: Bruce Holenstein
Panel members: Howard Banich, Mel Bartels, Donny Mott, Dave Rowe

Conference Day 2, Saturday 21 January
7:45 Meet at Royal Kona
8:00 Depart Royal Kona Resort for Waimea
9:00 Coffee at CFHT HQ for early arrivals
9:30 Session III Observational Programs
21st century astronomical drawing, Howard Banich, Rose City Astronomers
A new way of looking at things, Mel Bartels, BB Astrosystems
Restoring order to deep sky discovery, Steve Gottlieb, NGC/IC Project
10:45-11:00 Break
Lightweight 0.6 meter mirror, Olivier Guyon, Subaru/Arizona Mirror Lab
Light bucket spectroscopy, Jon Saken, Marshall University
Undergraduate astronomy at Evergreen, Rebecca Chamberlain, Evergreen College
12:15 Group photo/lunch
2:00 Session IV Optics, Cameras, and Telescopes
ATM optical testing, Dave Rowe
The SCOTS optical test, Peng Su, University of Arizona Optical Center
High time resolution astronomy developments, Bruce Holenstein and Russ Genet
3:15-3:30 Break
The 36 inch telescope on Mauna Kea, Josh Walawender, University of Hawaii, Hilo
Hexapod telescope design, Vince Truman et al, Cal Poly State University *

Observations on Mauna Kea (HP) Must have warm clothes!
HP Guide: Christopher Erickson, Cell 907 250-2506
4:15 Depart CFHT HQ Waimea parking lot for Mauna Kea HP
5:15 Eat at HP
6:30 Observing at the HP visitor’s center
8:30 Depart for CFHT HQ in Waimea
9:15 Depart CFHT HQ for Kona

Conference Day 3, Sunday 22 January
7:45 Meet at Royal Kona
8:00 Depart Royal Kona Resort for Waimea
9:00 Coffee at CFHT HQ for early arrivals
9:30 Session V Lightweight Mirror Developments
Electrostatic active secondary mirrors, Brian Fehrman, South Dakota Mines and
Technology *
Home Spun Mirrors, Wayne Young, UK *
Starstone mirror developments, Andrew Arigema, OTF Designs *
Surface errors in heat formed mirrors, David Davis, Toledo Scope Werks *
11:00-11:15 Break
Spin-cast plastic mirrors, Michael Every, Rochester Institute of Technology
Spin-cast epoxy mirror developments, Lisa Brodhacker, Lander University
Optical testing of epoxy mirrors, Dylan Holenstein & Bruce Holenstein, Gravic
Laser activated primary mirror, Joe Ritter, Univ. of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy
Active secondary project update, Alex Thompson, Jeff Jarema, & Bruce Holenstein, Gravic
1:00 Lunch
2:30 Session VI Tech Transfer
Development of a portable 1 meter telescope with active primary, Mike Connelley, NASA IRTF
Advanced developments overview, Russ Genet, Cal Poly State University
Tech Transfer Panel Moderator: Doug Simons, Gemini Observatory
Panel members: Mel Bartels, Russ Genet, Joe Ritter, Dave Rowe, Jon Saken
4:30 Van departs CFHT for BBQ/observing session
5:30 BBQ/Observing session in Waikoloa Village (Cliff Livermore’s place), 68-1812 Pau-Nani, Waikoloa Village HI 96738, 808 989-7451.
8:00 Van departs Waikoloa Village for Kona, Conference adjourned

Volcanoes National Park Tour

Volcanoes National Park Tour - Lunch!

Gemini / Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Tours

Lunch at the 9000 ft Astronomers Center to aclimatize

2010-2011 Conferences

Telescopes from Afar
Robotic Observatories
February 28-March 3, 2011
Waikaloa Marriott
North of Kona, Big Island of Hawaii
Sponsored by the
Canada France Hawaii Telescope
& the Alt-Az Initiative
Just Completed
(Click here for Website)

Technology Developments
and Research Programs

Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Headquarters, Waimea, Big Island of Hawaii
31 December 2010 - 2 January 2011

Russ Genet (Calif. Polytechnic State Univ.), and Bruce Holenstein (Gravic, Inc.)
Local Hosts
Josh Walawender (Univ. of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy), and Sarah Gajardhar (CFHT)
Conference Webmaster
Cheryl Genet

Mauna Loa / Mauna Kea pre-conference tours
29/30 December
Volcanoes National Park post-conference tour - 3 January

Click here for conference website
Click here for a printable pdf  information version

Conference Goals


The goals of the conference are two fold.  First, to explore how new technologies can be applied to developing lightweight, low cost, meter class “light bucket” telescopes and their instrumentation.  Second, to describe the scientific research programs that would most benefit from telescopes which are so low in initial and operational cost that entire telescopes or even arrays of telescopes can be dedicated to specific research programs.


What is light bucket astronomy?



Jacquelyn Mitton, in the Cambridge Dictionary of Astronomy (2001), defines a light bucket asA colloquial expression for a flux collector.”  She defines a flux collector, in turn, asA telescope designed solely to collect radiation in order to measure its intensity or to carry out spectral analysis,” mentioning that, “No attempt is made to form an image so a flux collector can have a more crudely figured reflective surface than a conventional telescope.”  We have extended Mitton’s light bucket definition to include photometric CCD “imaging” with low quality, low cost optics (typically one wave or less as opposed to quarter wave or better optics). 


Light bucket telescopes excel in comparison with smaller aperture, more expensive, diffraction-limited telescopes when the sky background is a small or nearly negligible source of noise. This situation can occur when: (1) the object being observed is very bright, (2) the integration times are very short and hence photon arrival noise becomes important, (3) scintillation noise becomes a dominant noise source, (4) the bandwidth is very narrow or the light is spread out as in spectroscopy resulting in significant photon arrival noise, or (5) noise from the detector is dominant, as it can be in the near infrared.


Science programs well suited for light bucket astronomy include: many high speed phenomena, including lunar and asteroid occultations; fast cadence, high precision CCD photometry; near infrared diaphragm-limiting or area photometry; low to medium resolution spectroscopy; and polarimetry. Finally, we note that an array of a half-dozen light bucket telescopes equipped with very high speed photometers could, with their many two-telescope combinations, provide images of the surfaces of nearby stars via intensity interferometry—a quantum-mechanical effect that occurs at sub-nanosecond timescales.   Such an array would be a modern extension of Hanbury Brown’s pioneering research, decades ago, with his two-telescope interferometer in Narrabri, Australia.

Special thanks to Bruce Holenstein's friends
Jonathan and Nancy Sechrist at Makahiki Farms
for sponsoring the special
“Dark Night Observing” roast Kona coffee
for the conference


Conference Talks
Talk slide pdfs and audio-visuals ««
are linked beside the speakers below

Special Talk
Kepler: Are There Any Good Worlds Out There? Jon Jenkens 
Talk slides  Music

Light Bucket Astronomy
Light Bucket Astronomy, Russ Genet and Bruce Holenstein 
Talk slides
Visions for Large Light Buckets, Russ Genet and Bruce Holenstein  Talk slides
Aberration Theory and Prototype Mirror Experiments, Bruce Holenstein 
Talk slides
Signal-to-Noise of Program Object Measures, Bruce Holenstein 
Talk slides

Innovation and the American Amateur Spirit, Jack Hitt   Talks slides
The Other Side of Innovation, Chris Trimble 
Talk slides

Meter Class Portable Telescopes
Portable Computerized 1 Meter Telescope, Russ Genet, and Reed and Chris Estrada 
Talk slides
Meniscus Mirror Portable Telescope, Olivier Guyon 
Portable 1 Meter Telescope, Mike Connelley

Kilns and Slumping
Low Cost Kilns, David Davis and Andrew Aurigema 
Talk slides
A Kiln for Slumping Mirrors, Olivier Guyon.  

Foam Glass Composite Mirrors
Foam Glass Composite Mirrors, Andrew Aurigema 
Talk slides  Video links
Lightweight Mirror Experiments, David Davis 
Talk slides  Video links
Tessellated Foam Glass Mirrors, David Davis 
Talk slides

Mirror Coating Technologies
Deposition Silvering, Sagar Venkateswaran 
Talk slides
Silvering and Overcoating Experiments, Bruce Holenstein, Sagar Venkateswaran,
                                                                 Mike Holenstein, and Dylan Holenstein  
Talk slides
Introduction to Sol-Gel Processes, Lisa Brodhacker  
Talk slides

Passive and Active Primary Mirror Support Systems
Low Cost Air Bag Mirror Support System, Steve Taylor 
Talk slides
Active Primary Mirror Support Experiment, Mike Connelley 
Talk slides
Low Cost Fixed and Bimorph Correctors, Bruce Holenstein 
Talk slides

Telescope and Observatory Control Systems
Sidereal Technology Control System Developments, Dan Gray 
Talk slides  Movie
Dedicated Systems: Small Telescopes in the Era of Big Science, Josh Walawender 
Talk slides
The Case for Automated Telescopes, Josh Walawender  
Talk slides

Near Infrared Aperture Photometry
Progress Report on a J/H(Ks) Aperture Photometer, Greg Jones 
Talk slides
Telescope Design Considerations for Near Infrared Photometry, Mike Connelley 
 Talk slides

High Time Resolution Photometry
Experiments with High Speed Cameras, Bruce Holenstein 
Talk slides
A High Speed Electrometer for Photodiode Photometers, Bruce Holenstein 
Talk slides
Methods for Time Stamping Analog and Digital Video, Frank Suits 
Talk slides
Occultation Timing Accuracy: Dependence on Frame Rate and S/N, Frank Suits 
Talk slides

Occultation Photometry
Missions for Portable Meter Class Telescopes, David Dunham 
Talk slides
Lunar Occultation Theory and Practice, Bruce Holenstein 
Talk slides
Observing Trans-Neptunian Objects with Portable Telescopes, Marc Buie 
Talk slides
Portable Occultation Telescope Requirements, EliotYoung 
Talk slides  
Portable Occultation Systems for Studies of Pluto and Triton, Leslie Young and Cathy Olkin 
Talk slides
                                                                                                               (These are large file so please be patient)

Back to Top

2008-2009 Conference

Celestron kindly donated an 8" Telescope as
a door prize.  Celestron's Kevin Kawai makes presentation to happy winner Dennis Hoofnagle

Galileo's Legacy
A celebration of small telescopes
and astronomical research
four centuries later

 Makaha Resort
Waianae, Oahu, Hawaii

December 31, 2008
- January 5, 2009

Inaugural Speaker - Susana Deustua
Keynote Speaker - Arne Henden
Luau Speaker - Richard Berry

Photo Gallery Wrap-up

 In 1609, Galileo turned his newly made telescope toward the heavens and, in rapid succession, discovered the mountains on the Moon, a multitude of previously invisible stars, and four moons orbiting Jupiter. Many of Galileo’s observations were made from his backyard. Four centuries after Galileo’s 1609 observations—thanks to the revolutionary trio of affordable CCD cameras, small go-to telescopes, and personal computers—thousands of backyard Galileo's around the planet are now probing cosmic mysteries every clear night. They conduct scientific research across a broad spectrum: tumbling asteroids, pulsating stars, eclipsing binaries, transiting planets, and sputtering matter as it spirals onto white dwarfs and neutron stars.

To commemorate Galileo and celebrate his legacy, 2009 has been designated the International Year of Astronomy (IYA).  This conference honored Galileo and his telescope, by way of the many current builders and researchers—amateurs, students, and professionals—who are successfully designing, building, and using small telescopes, CCD cameras, and even spectrographs to advance astronomical science. The conference celebrated Galileo’s achievements by examining his legacy: the remarkable resurgence of small telescopes and their science.

Galileo's Legacy Conference Agenda of Talks and Workshops

Thursday, January 1st    Telescope Control and Mirror Developments

    8:40-9:00       Russ Genet                   Intermediate Aperture Alt-Az Telescope Development Program
       Dan Gray                      Direct Drive Axial Flux Motors
   9:20-9:40       Dan Gray                      Brushless DC Telescope Controller
       Kiran Shah                    Epoxy Spin-Cast Mirrors
10:30-10:45       Andrew Aurigema         Acrylic Plastic Mirrors for Hyper-Fast 3-D Telescopes
10:45-11:00       Andrew Aurigema         Vacuum Deposition Coating of Non-Traditional Mirror Materials

11:00-11:20       Andrew Aurigema         Foam Glass Sandwich Mirrors

11:20-11:40       David Davis                  Hogging with Heat: Kiln Forming Saggital Depth Curves
                                                            in Thin Plate Glass
11:40-12:00       David Davis                 
Composite Mirrors, Pushing the Envelope
      Workshop                     Alt-Az Telescope Development
      Arne Henden                 Keynote Talk: Variable Star Observing for Fun and Profit 

Friday, January 2nd    Solar Research, Remote Observatories, and Chandra

      Sara Martin                   Solar Prominence Research Using Small Telescopes
    9:00-9:20      Alexander Wen             
An Investigation of Exceptions to the Hemispheric Pattern of  Chirality of
                                                            Solar Prominences and Related Features
    9:20-9:40      Tom Smith                     Dark Ridge Observatory Overview
      Tom Smith                     Remote Observing for Students
10:30-10:50       Robert Rea                   Regent Lane Observatory
10:50-11:10      Kevin Ivarsen                Skynet and PROMPT: Overview of a Global Telescope Network
11:10-11:40      Donna Young                The Chandra X-ray Satellite and AAVSO Education Outreach Initiative
11:40-12:00      Terry Matilsky               DS9 Image Analysis Software
12:00-12:20      Doug Lombardi              Decoding Starlight and Imaging
      Workshop                      Chandra
      Tom Johnson                 Historical Talk: The Schmidt Corrector and the Founding of Celestron

Saturday, January 3rd    Day off, Luau, and Remote Double Star Observing

    8:05-9:00      Richard Berry              Luau Talk: Galileo Meets Babbage: The Evolution of Data in Astronomical
                      Science  (Pokai Room)

Sunday, January 4th    Research as Education, Instruments, and Science

    8:30-8:50      Russ Genet                    Astronomical Research as Undergraduate & High School Education
      Jo Johnson                     Fall 2008 Astronomy Research Seminar at Cuesta College
    9:10-9:30      Arne Henden                 Recent Variable Stars of Interest
      Matt Beaky                   Pulsating Stars in Eclipsing Binary Systems
      Alan Holmes                  Capabilities and Limitations of Amateur Spectroscopy
10:40-11:00       Danyal Medley              Small Telescope Developments at Celestron
1:00-11:20        Kent Clark                    Introduction to Visual Double Stars
11:20-11:40       Kent Clark                    Measurement of the Proper Motion of ENG
7B - A Student Project
11:40-12:00       Bob Nelson                   Spectroscopy for Eclipsing Binary Light Curve Analysis
12:00-12:30       Doug Simons                 Gemini and Tech Transfer
      Workshop                     Advanced Technologies & Tech Transfer from Larger Smaller Telescopes
      Alan Holmes                  Keynote Talk: Two Decades of SBIG CCD Cameras

Monday, January 5th    Science and Special Talks

    8:40-9:00      Arne Henden                 Near IR Photometry
      Dan Gray                      Automation of the SSP4
    9:20-9:40      Tom Johnson                 Optical Testing
  9:40-10:00      Terrance Redding          How Amateur Astronomers Learn: Engaging High Self-Directed
                                                            Learners in Astronomy
10:30-11:00       Scott Degenhardt          Introduction to Occultations
11:00-11:20       Scott Degenhardt          Multi-Station Occultation Observing with Galileo Sized Optical Systems
11:20-11:40       Bob Buchheim              PSF-Matching for Measuring Close Double Stars
11:40-12:00       Richard Berry               The new Magnitude Measurement Tool in AIP
      Workshop                      Science Research and Education
      Bob Buchheim               Aloha Talk: The Evidence of Things Not Seen  (Pokai Room)

                                                           Click here for more information

Back to Top

2008 Conference

Conference on smaller telescopes (2 meters or less) Their development & use in research & education

June 19-22, 2008  
San Luis Obispo, California

Original Website

Cal Poly 18

    Affordable CCD cameras, compact go-to telescopes, and powerful personal computers (not to mention DSLR and video cameras) have transformed small telescopes into powerful tools for astronomical research. “Dobsonian” mirrors up to one-meter aperture and affordable control systems are being combined into highly capable equatorial and alt-az telescopes. These larger telescopes not only allow precise astrometric and photometric observations of faint objects but, with recently available spectrographs, both time-series and classification spectroscopy are now affordable. Robotic and remote access small telescopes are facilitating observations both locally and remotely around the globe. High school and undergraduate students are joining the ranks of amateur and professional astronomers in utilizing small telescopes for astronomical research. Whether conducting astronomical research or developing new telescopes or software, students gain invaluable hands-on experience in science and engineering while, as coauthors of published papers, their careers are given a boost.

STAR Conference Agenda of Talks and Workshops

Thursday, June 19
Evening Presentations (7:30-9:00)

Arne Henden – You Should Observe Variable Stars!

Friday, June 20

Opening (8:00-8:20)

Bob Buchheim – Evidence of Things Not Seen

Telescopes I (8:20-10:00)

Rick Hedrick – PlaneWave Telescopes
Dan Grey – The New Sidereal Technology Telescope Control System
Russ Genet – Modest Aperture Alt-Az Research Telescopes
George Alers –
Bringing an Old LX10 into the Digital Age

Telescopes II (10:30-11:50)

Curtis mead – All Sky Optical SETI: The Greatest Hits
Erick Kopit –
Orion Products for Astronomical Research at Affordable Prices
Tom Osypowski – A Commercial Aluminum Telescope
Matt Swanson, Michelle Kirkup, and Josh Schmitt – Design and Fabrication of an Optical Tube Assembly
                                                                              for an 18 Inch Alt-Az Telescope

Instrumentation (11:50-12:30)

Richard Crisp I – Trends in CCD Sensor Development
Richard Crisp II – Polarization Imaging Using Stokes Parameters

Kit Telescope Workshop (2:00-2:30)

Erick Kopit, Dan Grey, Russ Genet, Rick Hedrick, Michelle Kirkup, John Ridgely
1.5 Meter Telescope Challenge Workshop (2:30-3:00)
Russ Genet, Curtis Mead, Arne Hendon, Dan Grey, Matt Swanson, John Ridgely

Telescope Technology Workshop (3:30-4:00)

Dan Grey, Tom Osypowski, Tom Smith, Erick Kopit, Rick Hedrick, Josh Schmitt

Instrumentation Workshop (4:00-4:30)

Curtis Mead, Bob Buchheim, Arne Hendon, Dan Grey, Richard Crisp, Rich Williams

Guest Talk (Evening)
Wayne Rosing – Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network

Double Star Astrometry
Tom Frey – What are Double Stars?
Kent Clark – The
Journal of Double Star Observations
Stephanie Marble, Christianne Gonzales, Corey Cameron, and Sarah Fishbein –
                     High School Student Observations of the Visual Double Star 3 Pegasi

Exoplanet Transits
Jim Carlisle, Tom Smith, and Jolyon Johnson – Transiting Exoplanet WASP-1b

Telescope Engineering

John Ridgely – Cal Poly Mechanical Engineering Senior Projects Class
Matt Swanson, Michelle Kirkup, and Josh Schmitt – 18 Inch Telescope Optical Tube Assembly
Raymond Desmarais – Large Lightweight Inexpensive Telescopes
Brittany McCrigler and George Alers – Upgrading an LX10

Local Astronomy Programs

Dave Mitchell – Cal Poly Astronomy Program
Russ Genet – Cuesta College Astronomy Program
Vera Wallen – Cuesta College Physics Research Seminar
Walt Reil – Central Coast Astronomical Society 

Saturday, June 21
Opening (8:00-8:20)

Wayne Rosing – Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network 

Double Star Astrometry (8:20-9:20)

Kent Clark –
All About the Journal of Double Star Observations
Dave Arnold – Considering Proper Motion in the Analysis of Visual Double Stars
Tom Frey – Visual Double Star Measurements with an Alt-Az Telescope

Exoplanet Microlensing and Transits (9:20-10:00)

Andrew Gould – MicroFUN: Amateur + Professional Collaboration to Find Planets Using Gravitational Microlensing
Jolyon Johnson – Observations of Exoplanet WASP-1b Suggest Early Transit

Solar Phenomena and Time Series Photometry (10:30-12:30)

Sara Martin – An Abundance of Research Opportunities Using Small Solar Telescopes
Mark Wagner – Filters for Solar Research”
Brittany McCrigler I – Discovery of a New Variable Star
Brittany McCrigler II – Period Analysis of the Asteroid 2 Pallas

Sunday, June 22
Opening (8:00-8:20)

Arne Hendon – An Introduction to Infrared Photometry

Remote and Robotic Observatories (8:20-10:00)

Tom Smith – Collaboration and Remote Student Research at the Dark Ridge Observatory
Rich Williams – Commercial Remote Observatories: Flexible, Expedient, and Cost Effective Facilities for
                        Astronomy Research and Education Projects
Gary Cole – Small Telescope Automated Spectroscopy
Russ Rob – Astronomical Research at Victoria University

Research as Education (10:30-12:30)

Russ Genet – Astronomical Research as Science Education
Vera Wallen – Student Astronomical Research: An Educator’s Perspective
Jolyon Johnson – Double Star Observations by the Cuesta College Research Seminar
Jim Carlisle – The Road to Exoplanet Study

Double Star Astrometry Workshop (2:00-2:30)

Kent Clark, Dave Arnold, Tom Frey, Jolyon Johnson, Bob Buchheim,  Russ Genet

Exoplanet Transits and Microlensing Workshop (2:30-3:00)

Andrew Gould, Jim Carlisle, Arne Hendon, Tom Smith, Jolyon Johnson, Bob Buchheim

Remote/Robotic Observatories Workshop (3:30-4:00)

Tom Smith, Rich Williams, Russ Genet, Arne Hendon, Curtis Mead, Gary Cole

Research as Education Workshop (4:00-4:30)

Vera Wallen, Arne Hendon, Russ Genet, Jolyon Johnson, Tom Smith, Bob Buchheim

Evening Presentations (7:30-9:00)
Richard Berry – Astronomy in Africa and Visiting the South Africa Large Telescope (SALT)

                                                    Click here for more information

Back to Top



Portland V
Alt-Az Initiative

Held July 29-30, 2011
at Sidereal Technology
Fifth Annual
July 27-29, 2012
(Click Here for workshop webpage)


2010 Workshop


Portland IV
Initiative Workshop

at Sidereal Technology
Held July 31 – August 1, 2010   Portland, Oregon

The Portland IV Annual Alt-Az Initiative Workshop was held on Saturday and Sunday at Dan Gray's Sidereal Technology plant, preceded by an informal BBQ on Friday evening, July 30.  Last year’s Portland III Workshop featured a wide variety of speakers, and was featured in Amateur Astronomy magazine as will be this year’s workshop.  Topics this year included lightweight mirrors, large alt-az telescopes, advanced control systems, instruments (including near IR aperture photometers), and other topics.  Howard Banich  chaired the workshop (, and Dan Gray was the local host. 

Friday, 7/30 (6pm)
Welcome BBQ at TMS 

Saturday 7/31 (8:30am)
Introduction and agenda review –
“What’s the telescope for?” –
Richard, Russ
Research opportunities
Richard, Jo, David, Russ, Gary Cole. Bob Nelson, David Haworth, Bruce:
                                           Occultations (Lunar and asteroid)

Light Bucket astronomy – Bruce: Light Bucket Mirrors, some light bucket mirror theory (figures of merit
, Pneumatic LBTs, Evaluation of other new types and coatings
                                                     (Starstone, solar, Peacock Labs)
. Russ
Visual observing - Howard   

Brief history of the alt-az telescope – Richard, Peter Abrahams 
Herschel and Lord Rosse –

Mirror technologies – Mel, David, Drew, Peter Chen, Bruce, Umesh and Brian
                  Active primary and secondary optics
                  Closed loop control of membrane mirrors using electrostatic actuators, Brian:
                  Laboratory experiments on electrostatically controlled membrane mirrors, Bruce:

                  Correctors –Lenses, Deformable Secondary.

Spherical aberration correction via spherical refractive elements -

Sunday, 8/1 (9:00am)
Direct drive motor and controller –
Dan, Dave and the PlaneWave gang 
Instrumentation –
Greg, Dan, Bruce: Fast Detectors, Area (CCD & CMOS) and diaphragm (high speed
                                                            electrometer design)

Update on Russ Genet’s 1 meter scope – Russ 
Professional alt-az updates –
PlaneWave, Craig

CDK700 - Dave
1 meter CDK Cassegrain –
Future plans - what scopes and instruments are being planned by participants? 

Large Telescope Portability - Howard
SPIE update

Wrap up, going forward –
Howard, Russ

2009 Workshops

Tom Frey's team used his 18” Obsession to observe double stars

Pine Mountain Observatory Summer Research Workshop 2009

July 17-19, 2009
Pine Mountain Oregon

Local Host: Mark Dunaway

       Three schools, St. Mary's School in Medford, South Eugene High School in Eugene, and Willamette University in Salem participated in the Pine Mountain Observatory Summer Research Workshop 2009. The workshop was only three days long. To accomplish the goals of the workshop, Richard Berry, Jo Johnson, and Thomas Frey were invited as instructors to the students and high school teachers. Richard Berry led a variable star photometry project as well as a proper motion astrometry project. Jo and Tom led visual double star astrometry projects. Each of the instructors also gave lectures on the first day to introduce the students to the topics of their research. None of the students had made quantitative astronomical measurements before. Each team wrote up a paper describing the research they had done. Three papers in all were submitted for publication.
Dan Gray continued his project for automated IR photometry of variable stars and Russ Genet made considerable progress on the design of a 1 meter alt-az telescope for the Orion Observatory, which he directs. Finally, the editors of the Small Telescopes and Astronomical Research book, Russ Genet, Jo Johnson, and Vera Wallen met at the workshop to finish preliminary editing of all chapters and Cheryl Genet, managing editor of the Collins Foundation Press, typeset the chapters in InDesign.

Richard Berry's team made photometric and astrometric measurements

Jo Johnson's team observed double stars on Russ Genet's NexStar 6

Dan Gray makes automated IR measurements


Gemini workshop tour group (bottom right) and the Gemini telescope

Gemini Observatory Tour Workshop
January 7, 2009
Hilo, Hawaii


After the January conference, Galileo's Legacy: Small Telescopes and Astronomical Research, over a dozen astronomers and engineers visited the Gemini telescope on Mauna Kea for an "insiders tour."  They stopped at the Hale Pohaku Astronomer's Hotel (9000 ft level) to have lunch and acclimatize to the altitude before ascending to the top of mountain at 14,000 feet. During this workshop they continued their discussions of alt-az telescope technologies and saw the Gemini implementation of some of these technologies first hand.

Back to Top

2008 Workshop

Vancouver 1-2 Meter Telescope Workshop
July 25-26, 2008
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC, Canada

Organizers: Craig Breckenridge & Russ Genet


Craig Breckenridge, members of the Vancouver ATM community, local professionals from the large aperture telescope design field, and the low cost 1.5 meter alt-az telescope development team met to discuss all aspects of 1M to 2M class instruments and their enclosures and to reviewing preliminary design alternatives for the low cost 1.5 meter telescope.

The Schedule for the Vancouver Telescope Workshop was as follows:


Friday, July 25th – Arrival Dinner / Possible Observing

2:00 – 6:00 Arrivals self check in at Gage Towers, informal discussions at Gage

6:00 – 9:00 Social hour, informal Dutch treat dinner (guest speaker and slide show after dinner)

9:00 - ??? Possible Observing at either UBC's .42M telescope or the Gordon McMillan Southam Observatory's .5M telescope (Craig Breckenridge design)

Saturday, July 26th – 1-2 Meter Telescope Workshop

Overview and discussion of current technologies and future potentials for telescopes in the 1-2 meter range.  Emphasis on the potential for applying some of the lessons learned in larger alt-az telescopes to modest aperture alt-az systems in a manner that could result in unusually lightweight, low cost telescopes.

8:00 - 9:00 Plenary Session

9:00 - 10:00 Optics Workshop

10:15 - 11:15 Structural Workshop

11:15 - 12:15 Mechanical Workshop

1:15 - 2:15 Controls Workshop

2:15 - 3:15 Operational Workshop (autoguiding and active primaries)

3:30 - 4:30 Observatory Workshop

9:00 PM Observing with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vancouver Centre at their inaugural local Star Party (in Fort Langley - about 1 1/2 hour drive).

Sunday, July 27th – 1.5 Meter Telescope Preliminary Design Review

The 1.5 meter project is developing a lightweight, low cost telescope for dedicated near-IR photometry and fiber fed optical spectroscopy.  Several preliminary design alternatives were presented for critique by the attendees with the hope of selecting one option for further detailed design and construction.

8:00 - 9:00 Overview briefings on the 1.5 meter telescope project and applications

9:00 - 10:00 Panel discussion on the 1.5 meter project, NIR, and spectroscopy

10:15 - 11:15 Briefings on 1.5 meter design alternatives

11:15 - 12:15 Panel critique and recommendation for design alternative


Dan Gray, Russ Genet, Craig Breckenridge, Howard Trottier, Merle Halpern, Nathan Loewen, Eric Fuller,
Juan C. Diaz, Marcel, Kreig McBride, Greg Burley,
Bob Nelson, Mikhail Rosenberg

Back to Top

Dan Gray with a direct drive motor

Portland Workshop II
July 24, 2008

Sidereal Technology
Portland, Oregon

Local Host: Dan Gray

Howard Banich Presents to Participants

       Sidereal Technology hosted, for the second time, a Portland workshop devoted to the design, construction, and use of high tech, modest aperture, low cost, alt-az telescopes.  The telescopes and designs we discussed were all high tech in the sense that they were computer-controlled precision goto/tracking telescopes that used aerospace materials as appropriate.  We limited ourselves to 2 meters or less in aperture, except for several larger alt-az telescopes we have visited for inspiration such as the 2.4-meter Magdalena Ridge Observatory and 8-meter Gemini and Subaru telescopes. 

       One can purchase wonderfully designed and manufactured alt-az telescopes in the 1 to 2 meter range from firms such as ESO Technologies, DFM Engineering, and others. These systems are excellent values.  Our group’s interest centers on addressing how telescopes of much lower cost—an order of magnitude lower—might be designed and produced.  Of course there are no free lunches, so such low costs would have to depend on technological breakthroughs, limited telescope capabilities (such as specialized, dedicated mission telescopes), be standardized and manufactured in quantity, or have somewhat lower optical quality, etc.


Attendees  Peter Abrahams, Tim Anderson, Howard Banich, Mel Bartels, Richard Berry, Mike Colyar, Nathan Corrier,
Russ Genet, Dan Gray, David Haworth, Greg Jones, Don Peckham, Greg Rohde, and Malcom Saunders



Dan Gray: High Resolution Encoder, Hand Controller, Direct Dive Motor Controller, Optec SSP-4 Automation, Cal Poly 18 Inch Telescope, Instrument Rotator Projects, Alt-Az 16 Inch Telescope.

Tim Anderson: Memory Foam Mirror Cell for Thin Mirror.

Dave Rowe: Direct Drive Motors, High Resolution Encoder, CDK Design / 2 Meter Telescope, Spherical Correctors, Corrected Hyperbolic Newtonian, Optec SSP-4 Results, IR Detectors Possibilities, Darwin Optical Analysis Program,

Multiple OTA Telescope / Four Shooter.


Howard Banich: Conversion of 28 Inch Telescope, Primary Mirror Cell for 18 Inch Telescope, Secondary Mirror,  Structure for 18 Inch Telescope.

Peter Abrahams: Early Computer Controlled and Robotic Telescopes.

Russ Genet: Lightweight Mirrors, Goto Dobs.

Mike Colyar: High Speed Photometry, Oil Pad Systems, Preload Springs From Recoil Starters.

Richard Berry: Science Programs for Advanced Telescopes, Alternative Instrument Payload Configurations.


Greg Rohde: Fused Quartz Mirror Cells.


Malcom Sanders: Problems with 700mm Telescope.

Back to Top

2008 Workshop

Pine Mountain Observatory Summer Research Workshop 2008

July 28-31, 2008
Pine Mountain Oregon

Local Host: Mark Dunaway

       One area of research interest is near infrared photometry. Although NIR cameras remain quite expensive, the Optec SSP-4 photodiode NIR photometer is very inexpensive (less than $3000). The SSP-4 is a manually operated system in terms of its flip mirror and J and H band filter slide. Dan Gray automated these functions, and integrated them with his automated 14-inch alt-az telescope. Dan and Russ Genet tested the photometer out on a workshop at Pine Mountain Observatory in eastern Oregon. Dave Rowe analyzed their test data on various stars.
       Also during the workshop, Jo Johnson, a student at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, California, and Eric Carlson, a student at the University of Oregon, used the 24” Boller and Chivens to observe double stars with an SBIG ST-8 CCD camera. They also attempted several transits of the exoplanet HD 189733b predicted on No transit was detected after data reduction.

Students observe an exoplanet transit

Dan Gray at his 14 inch alt-az telescope

Workshop group on last evening

Back to Top

2008 Workshop

Chris, Daigo, Mike, & Russ

Gemini/Subaru Workshop II
February 23-25, 2008
Hilo, Hawaii

A second workshop was held in Hilo, February 2008, with Chris Carter (Gemini Controls), Daigo Tomono (Subaru Mechanical), Mike Sheehan (Gemini Mechanical), and Russ Genet (Alt-Az Initiative). The first part of the workshop was devoted to roughing out a conceptual design for a lightweight (under 1000 lb.), low cost 2.0 meter telescope for dedicated, fairly narrow field-of-view applications such as time series photometry or fiber-fed spectroscopy. The conceptual telescope employed four 1-meter spherical mirrors that would be co-aligned and co-focused, albeit not co-phased.  Instruments were placed on the top of struts at prime focus behind a refractive spherical aberration corrector.  The second part of the workshop was devoted to discussing active correction of a primary mirror figure via "voice coil" tweaking as the telescope changed its azimuth. The amount of "tweaks" needed to overcome mirror "slumping" would be determined off line by observing bright stars at a range of altitudes. These values would be stored in a lookup table & interpolated to the telescope's current altitude, an approached used successfully by the Subaru 8 m telescope.

Chris and Russ with voice coil

Back to Top

2008 Workshop

Gemini Observatory - Mauna Kea

Gemini and Subaru Observatory Tours
and Workshop I

January, 2008
Hilo, Hawaii

Workshop at Gemini Headquarters

The large telescopes have pioneered many of the techniques that can now be applied at greatly reduced cost thanks to advancements in electronics and materials.  The large telescope engineers seem to genuinely enjoy discussing the challenges of applying what they have learned on a much smaller scale and greatly reduced budget.


Alt-Az Initiative members Russ Genet and Dan Gray met with Gemini engineers Chris Carter and Mike Sheehan and Subaru engineers Daigo Tomono and Hicleki Takami in Hilo on the big island of Hawaii.  Gemini Director Doug Simons joined us during our meeting.  A visit to the 8-meter Gemini and Subaru telescopes on Mauna Kea followed the meeting.  Chris Carter guided Russ and Dan Gray through Gemini, while Diago Tomono guided them through Subaru.


Both the Gemini and Subaru telescopes use thin meniscus primary mirrors.  The mirror blanks were cast at Corning from ULE.  Passive supports alone would be inadequate for these mirrors, so their figures are fine tuned with actuators which actively apply forces to the backs of the mirrors.  The Subaru has a diameter to thickness ratio of 60:1.  What was of great interest to us was that once the necessary forces for various elevations and temperatures were determined, they could be used for months in a table look-up fashion before they needed to be refined.  This was important for our smaller alt-az telescope to know, because we have been considering using a thin meniscus mirror in our 1.0 to 2.0 meter telescopes with active control and were hoping that we could make calibration measurements off line and just interpolate from a table during normal operation.

Click here for pdf of article published in Astronomy Today

Consultation in Subaru Control Room

Gemini Telescope

Subaru Instruments

Back to Top

2007 Workshop

Texas Astronomical Society of

High-Tech Alt-Az Telescope Workshop

October 26-27, 2007
Dallas, Texas

Program Organizer: Russ Genet
Local Host: Max Corneau

Evening Kickoff
  at the Texas Astronomical Society of Dallas’s General Meeting at the University of Texas, Dallas, Friday evening, October 26, 7:00-8:30 PM.  A 40-minute presentation, High-Tech Alt-Az Telescopes for Research, Astrophotography, and Education, by Russ Genet (California Polytechnic State University) will be followed by a question-answering panel chaired by Max Corneau with panel members Russ Genet, Richard Kay, Tom Krajci, Tom Smith, and Dave Rowe. 


All-Day Workshop  Saturday, October 27, 2008, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.  Please see workshop agenda below.

              Introduction to Alt-Az Telescopes for Research, Astrophotography, and Education 

The combination of low-cost alt-az telescope control systems and affordable aerospace materials has reached the point where a revolutionary new class of lightweight, highly capable alt-az telescopes is emerging.  Similar to SCTs, this new class of alt-az telescopes will not only be used visually, but also for CCD-based scientific research and astrophotography.  Similar to Dobs, they will have larger apertures than SCTs, yet will be lightweight.  Unlike the visual Dobs but similar to giant mountaintop alt-az telescopes, this emerging class of precisely controlled telescopes will handle a variety of instruments mounted on field de-rotators with generous back focus.  The primary reason for developing lightweight alt-az telescopes with apertures larger than SCTs is to conduct research on and image (as well as view) fainter objects with affordable telescopes. 

       The cost of alt-az telescope control systems has plummeted over the years.  Initially, control computers and telescope control electronics cost tens of thousands of dollars and filled entire equipment racks.  Today, Sidereal Technology makes a microcomputer-based alt-az telescope control system for about $1,000 that you can place in your briefcase with room to spare.  Meanwhile, the cost of aerospace materials has plummeted as their use has moved beyond aircraft and spacecraft to outdoor signs and building exteriors.  Given these two dramatic drops in cost, research-grade alt-az telescopes fabricated from lightweight aerospace materials are now economically viable.

The objective of the Dallas Alt-Az Workshop is to explore, in workshop talks and panel discussions, eight areas:

(1)     lightweight affordable optics

(2)     autoguiding

(3)     precision control systems and drives

(4)     field de-rotation

(5)     high natural frequency mechanical structures

(6)     bearings for alt-az telescopes

(7)     structural alternatives

(8)     observatories (automation, scheduling, and remote sites)

Workshop Agenda


830-840   Welcome/Introduction to the Texas Astronomical Society of Dallas

Max Corneau, Texas Astronomical Society, Dallas (Vice President)


840-850  Workshop Overview   Russ Genet, Cal Poly Univ.


­850-900  Morning Session Introduction   Tom Krajci, Astrokolkhoz Observatory


900-945  Lightweight Affordable Optics   Dave Rowe, Sierra Monolithics

A wide-field photo-visual alt-az telescope supports two basic optical configurations: the corrected Newtonian for smaller systems, and the tertiary-focus Cassegrain for larger systems.  The first part of this talk will address the requirements and trade-offs for telescopes of this class, and will discuss various high-performance optical designs in detail.  Emphasis will be placed on corrected parabolic Newtonian, corrected hyperbolic Newtonian, and corrected Dall Kirkham optical systems.  The second part of this talk will cover the current status and future of large, lightweight mirror blanks and corrective optics.  Lightweight and inexpensive primary mirrors and matched correctors are needed to fulfill the promise of the high-tech telescope.


945-1015  Corrected Dall Kirkham Alt-Az Telescopes   Rick Hedrick, Plane Wave Instruments

The corrected Dall Kirkham design employed in the 20-inch Plane Wave Instruments OTA is being extended to alt-az telescopes of 40-inch (1-meter) telescopes.  Why is this optical design particularly well suited to economical 1-meter telescopes for research, astrophotography, and education?


1015-1030 Autoguiding   Tom Krajci, Astrokolokhoz Observatory

Autoguiding has been the mainstay of long-exposure astronomical imaging.  This talk will cover the current status and future of telescope positioning and position correction.  Topics will include traditional autoguiding using cameras and mount corrections, faster correction methods using movable mirrors and deviator plates, and long-exposure unguided imaging using precision encoders and mount modeling.  The impact on the optical and mechanical design will be discussed.



1100-1200  Precision control systems and drives   Dan Gray, Sidereal Technology

Sidereal Technology manufactures and supports a control system that can be used for either equatorial or alt-az telescopes.  Over 100 systems have been incorporated into telescopes, including several ATM alt-az systems.  An active Yahoo user’s group helps newcomers and provides ideas for and evaluations of advances.  Besides reviewing the current control system, this talk will describe new developments which include “tick management,” closed-loop operation with high-resolution telescope encoders, and experiments with the control of high-torque brushless DC motors.  This latter development could produce active control systems that directly counter wind gusts one millisecond at a time.


1200-1230  Field de-rotation  Dan Gray, Sidereal Technology

Although new high-speed CCD cameras, such as MalinCan and StellaCam, can overcome field rotation by stacking short exposures, accumulated camera read noise can be a problem for faint-object photometry or narrow-band astrophotography.  Thus instrument rotators are still useful for research alt-az telescopes.  Several off-the-shelf instrument rotators (Meade, Optec, RC Optical Systems) are available.  A proposed development by Sidereal Technology will also be discussed.



200-210 Afternoon session introduction   Tom Smith, Dark Ridge Observatory


200-230   High natural frequency mechanical structures   Russ Genet, Cal Poly Univ.

Control systems that actively counter wind gusts with high-torque motors and high-resolution encoders require, to be effective, very stiff telescope structures with resonant frequencies above 10 Hertz (most of the wind gust energy is from 1 to 10 Hertz).  Sheet steel is very stiff for its weight (and very economical), but aerospace materials, such as carbon fiber and other composites, and aluminum honeycomb and foam core panels are, pound-for-pound, even stiffer and lighter than sheet steel.  Ordinary woodworking tools and structural adhesives can be used to build lightweight alt-az telescopes in a manner very similar to building balsa wood model airplanes.


230-300  Bearings for alt-az telescopes  Richard Kay, Impact Bearings, Inc.

While there are many ways to accommodate rotation in altitude and azimuth, precision bearings is an approach that has been used with success by the smaller mountaintop alt-az telescopes, such as the new 2.4-meter telescope at Magdalena Ridge Observatory built by EOS Technologies.  Although large-diameter slim-line bearings are somewhat expensive, they are a viable option for lightweight alt-az telescopes.  Recent advances in bearing technology will be discussed.


300-330  Structural alternatives panel discussion  Panel Moderator: Max Corneau

Panel Members: Richard Kay, Dave Rowe, Russ Genet, Tom Smith, and Tom Krajci

There are many structural possibilities for lightweight alt-az telescopes.  The panel will address a number of questions.  Newtonian top ends: can they achieve low wind resistance?  Should truss or closed OTAs (shroud or otherwise) be used?  What is the best approach to fork designs?  Is foam filled monocoque or stacked aluminum skinned panels a viable approach?  How can altitude and azimuth drives be integrated into the structure?  Should they be non structural?  How should telescopes be coupled to piers or ground pads?  Is the ground too springy for active control telescopes?


Mid-afternoon break


400-430     Observatories: automation, scheduling, and remote sites

Tom Smith, Dark Ridge Observatory, and Tom Krajci, Astrokolokhoz Observatory

Now that you've decided to build a high-tech alt-az Telescope, how do you automate the observatory so you can sleep through the night?  How do you schedule observations to make the most of dark time?  If you want to operate at a remote site, how do you choose it?


430-500  Final panel discussion and summary statements  Panel Moderator: Max Corneau

Panel Members: Richard Kay, Dave Rowe, Russ Genet, Tom Smith, and Tom Krajci


500 Adjourn



Back to Top

2007 Workshop

Cloudcroft, New Mexico

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Cloudcroft area, besides being home to several major research obser-vatories, is a hotbed of smaller observatories, many of which are operated via the Internet from remote locations.

Left: The RAAT conferees pose in front of the historic Cloudcroft Lodge.

       Just over 18 years ago, the first Remote Access Automatic Telescopes (RAAT) conference was held in Tucson (March 16-19, 1989). Russ Genet (Fairborn Observatory) organized the conference which was chaired by Dave Crawford (Kitt Peak National Observatory). The conference was sponsored by the Fairborn Observatory, the Smithsonian Institution, and the IAPPP. Not long before the conference, an automatic telescope had received instructions over the Internet, run automatically all night, and sent the results to the requestor following morning—an unattended, remote-access procedure that soon became routine.
       Russ Genet and David Rowe, the RAAT II conference organizers, thought it would be worthwhile to revisit this topic. The Lodge at Cloudcroft was chosen as the venue not only for its cool summer clime, beauty, and historic charm, but because the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico have become a world center for remote access automatic telescopes of modest aperture. The conference began at 9 AM, broke for a leisurely lunch, continued during the afternoon, and then adjourned for a Dutch-treat social hour and dinner. Talks and discussions were informal.  All subjects dealing with remote access telescopes, imaging, science and/or educational programs were encouraged, as were talks on non-automated observatories and all other astronomical topics of general interest.

Back to Top

2007 Workshop

Magdalena Ridge Observatory
August 4, 2007
Near Seccoro, New Mexico

Local Host: Elwood Downey, MRO Chief Engineer

A crucial "workshop" was a visit by Russ Genet, Tom Karjeci, and Tom Smith to Magdalena Ridge Observatory to see and discuss MRO's 2.4 meter alt-az telescope which, at the time, was nearing operational status.  The 2.4 meter telescope had been highly recommended to Initiative members as a particularly good example of a modern, modest aperture alt-az telescope.  MRO's chief engineer, Elwood Downey, and EOS Technologies Project Engineer, Kevin Harris, were the hosts.  Initiative members were particularly impressed with the telescope's direct drives and stiff structure, inspiring us to look into direct drives more closely and, eventually, to develop our low cost direct drives.

Back to Top

2007 Workshop

Small Telescope and Astronomical Research

June 22-24, 2007
California State Polytechnic University
San Luis Obispo, California

The STAR Workshop was sponsored by the Research Scholar in Residence Program at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly).  Late June was chosen as a time when schools were out but summer vacations had not started in earnest.  The workshop provided a forum where high school and undergraduate students, amateur and professional astronomers, educators, and the commercial designers and manufacturers of small telescopes, could share their ideas in the rapidly expanding arenas of small telescope engineering development, scientific research, and undergraduate education. 
                                  Click here for and article published in Astronomy Technology Today

Back to Top

2007 Workshop

Russ, Howard, Richard, Mel, Dan & 14"

Portland I
June 10, 2007

Sidereal Technology
Portland, Oregon

Local Host: Dan Gray

Portable 28", Howard & Russ

The very first meeting of the Alt-Az Initiative took place June 9-10, 2007, at Dan Gray's Sidereal Technology/Technical Marine Services plant in Portland, Oregon. In attendance, as shown in the photo, were Russ Genet, Howard Banich, Richard Berry, Mel Bartels, and Dan Gray. This small group began considering the research missions for alt-az telescopes in the 0.5 to 2.0 meter range, how these missions translated into engineering requirements and, especially, how new technical innovations and "tech transfers" from larger alt-az telescopes might be applied in novel ways to producing research telescopes that were remarkably lightweight and low in cost.  All the attendees had designed and built small telescopes themselves.  Two alt-az telescopes were at the workshop--Dan's 14-inch "Lollipop" and Howard's portable 28 inch which he brought to the workshop in his VW Microbus and assembled himself in just minutes.  It is not surprising that, from the very start, the mind set of Alt-Az Initiative's members was not only on very low cost, lightweight telescopes, but also on an informally funded, voluntary, and cooperative do-it-ourselves approach to development.  Dan's shop in Portland was not only host to another workshop, Portland II, but also to the final work, assembly, and testing of the Initiative's first demonstration telescope, the Cal Poly 18.

 For Alt-Az Aerospace Telescope Article (Amateur Astronomy-Winter 2007 - pdf 1.4 MB)    click here

Back to Top