We have been attempting to commission an AllSky Camera for some time now. It helps when the clouds go away 🙂 So.. This is an SBIG ST237A camera with a wide angle lens, a proprietary control box and a parallel port data cable. It is housed in a 30cm acrylic dome that has a circulation fan and a 5 watt heater that runs at night. The camera control software is also proprietary, CCDSoft. The object of this whole setup is to have the camera image all night long, in the hopes of spotting very large/bright meteors entering the atmosphere, burning up and perhaps a small chance of having one survive reentry. Using three cameras spaced apart, we can calculate a flight path and a probably impact area. This camera is the first testbed and once operational, would be used as a pattern to build two or more.
One of the issues is the overwhelming manual nature of the system. We remote desktop in to the Windows XPPro workstation running CCDOps and connected to the camera control box, start up CCDOps, turn on the Peltier cooler and then decide on the exposure for the night (4 minutes for moonless nights, 2 minutes for mooned nights), then figure out how many exposures you can take before twilight (4 minutes each gives 15/hour, 9 hours gives 135 exposures). Roughly.. as there is more time involved to download the image from the system as well. They get stored on a linux file server where the next morning a series of bash scripts process them, renaming each image with its date/time stamp, converting them to .jpg from .fits and then combining and converting the .jpgs into an animated .gif and then finally moving them into a local data storage area. In the morning we must manually connect to the workstation again, turn off the cooler and shutdown the camera.
We have attempted to use other software (such as Handyavi, Homewatcher etc.) but none of them can see the camera. Things that we want to do include: annoating the images to include location, exposure date/time, length of exposure, orientation ,etc, automate the start/stop of the imaging all night adjusting for changing sunset/sunrise times, find a better method to generate a video of the images overnight (smaller file size) and finally, some kind of automated processing to search for meteor events.