The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope

Instrumentation - 2009

Camera GUFI

The Vatican Observatory Research Group and the Centre for Astronomy, National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway), agreed upon a memo of understanding whereby the Galway Ultra Fast Imager (GUFI) would be located at VATT for a year starting on June 1st, 2009, with provision for renewing the agreement. This L3CCD instrument, based on a DV887 iXon Camera, has practically zero deadtime between exposures and so is particularly suited to monitoring or obtaining the period of rapidly varying objects.

The advantages of placing this state-of-the-art instrument on a reliable telescope in a high quality observing site led to the agreement. The research collaborator of the NUI Galway group at the Vatican Observatory is Boyle, and the instrument is available to all VATT users.

Aaron Golden, Gregg Hallinan, Leon Harding, and Ray Butler (NUI Galway) were guided by Franz in the rebuilding of GUFI to match the extremely fi ne imaging tolerances of VATT and in the placement of the instrument and its dedicated computer. The success of this collaboration was evident in the very smooth commissioning phase of GUFI at VATT, well in time to take part in a multi-telescope observing campaign later in June. All VATT’s engineering team was involved in the installation, and Harvey joined Boyle in becoming an approved supporter of other GUFI observers.

Assembly of the Camera GUFI by Leon Harding and Ned Franz.
Richard Boyle Photography


When not on the mountain, the VATT engineering team has been working on the new optical spectrograph, “VattSpec.” They have optically aligned the instrument and tested the new electronics for axis control. Harvey and Johnson are writing the low level control code and GUI respectively. Completion of the software is scheduled for late 2009, and testing of the complete software and mechanics will begin soon thereafter.


Telescope Maintenance - 2009

New oil return lines from the VATT
azimuth bearing, from a view
immediately below the telescope.
David Harvey Photography

The Telescope primary mirror had a hard wash this year by Gray. This was his first solo on the task and the mirror looks great. Gray has now become a licensed protector and keeper of the mirror.

The Dome pulley system for opening and closing the Dome shutter was overhauled. All new pulleys have been installed and the cable system re-tensioned for proper operation. During the pulley work Gray and Franz inspected the shutter rain seal. No damage or replacement was needed.

The Azimuth hydrostatic bearing pump number one had a new pump head installed this year. Towards the end of winter observing pump number one was exhibiting a cavitation problem and so we switched over to pump number two to finish out the season. Pump one has now been put back in to service with no more issues reported. At the same time a complete overhaul of the Azimuth oil bearing return lines was accomplished. It was noted that the original return system began leaking and fracturing this year. Franz specked out and redesigned the oil return system to be more efficient on the delivery of oil and to open up access to the Telescope pier.


Safety Program - 2009

Our safety program continues with great success. With the Steward Observatory safety manager, Dale Web, and mountain operations manager, Bob Peterson, walk-throughs continue on a six month interval to identify any potential safety issues. Currently this year none have been identified.

This year Gray extended the deck around the Telescope to facilitate a safe access for pumping down the VATT 4kccd camera. In the past, personnel had to remove the camera from the Telescope and take it to the instrument room, where a fixed vacuum pump was employed to pump the system down. This method exposed the camera to hazards such as dropping the instrument or electrical static discharge. The deck extension located on the Northeast side of the Telescope, accommodating our new portable vacuum station, now allows personnel to service the VATT 4kccd in situ and eliminates the above mentioned hazards.

The engineering team are continuing to work towards a safer work environment.


Microwave Grounding - 2009

Since the repair of the microwave tower grounding system, MGIO and Duffek have implemented a yearly check of the ground impedance. The specification it needs to meet is 25 ohms or less. Currently we are seeing after a year of service a total of 1 ohm which is only a .5 ohm increase since the fix. This is well within the Motorola standard.


Power Audit-2009

During the 2008 summer shutdown the VATT manager coordinated a power audit for the observatory site. This audit was ordered to determine phase balancing of the Observatory electrical power distribution system and proper grounding of the VATT building ground grid to the microwave communications tower. A few electrical code violations were identified as well as excessive UPS ground currents; Franz and Gray corrected all code violations and rectified all UPS ground problems over the course of this year.


Telescope Upgrades - 2009

Duffek, Harvey, and Johnson performed another network upgrade in the summer. The important highlights of this upgrade include:

  • A fi ber isolated main feed from the microwave tower was installed this year to eliminate the last hardwire copper connection to the Observatory equipment. All fi ber network feeds are working flawlessly.
  • All IP addresses have been changed to a scheme to form a private network. This change was done to improve network security as well as to save on network charges. A total savings on network charges should be on the order of $3,000/yr.
  • Johnson purchased, and installed a fl ashed based network fi rewall and VPN to enhance network security and create a secure connection between sites. This task was accomplished to pave the way towards remote observing in the future.
  • Johnson renamed all computers in the host table to better identify computers throughout the Observatory as part of the private network setup. This task corrects past defi ciencies in machine names that were confusing and non-descriptive (i.e., the computer that ran the VATT 4K CCD camera used to be called VATT pcx; it now is VATT 4kccd). The naming process chosen was to better identify each machine by function and location.
  • Franz built the new VATT 4Kccd vacuum pump station. This new pump allows for better portability and better cold temperature operation. A new pump down procedure was also implemented and documented.
  • Harvey, Johnson, and Boyle have been instrumental in continued observer training and support during the observing season.

General News of VATT - 2009

The technical work at the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope continued in 2009 with the same excellent personnel. Working with Bob Peterson as Steward Observatory’s mountain operations manager and Ken Duffek as the VATT manager, Christopher Corbally, S.J., remains director for the VATT, while Richard Boyle, S.J., is the telescope scientist and scheduler. Ned Franz, Dave Harvey, Chris Johnson, and Gary Gray comprise the rest of the VATT’s regular engineering team.


Safety Program - 2008

In the last year we have implemented a safety program at the VATT. This program involves identifying potential hazards to personnel and telescope equipment. Problems ranging from pinch points on the telescope to fall protection have been addressed. The Steward Observatory safety manager, Dale Web, and mountain operations manager Peterson visit the observatory quarterly for a walk-through to flag any issues. In the last year we identified 24 problems, some related to necessary repairs in a now 15-year-old building. Gray completes these repairs in a timely manner as they arise and are assigned to him.

Gray has done an outstanding job repairing the concrete deck on the east side of the Observatory. In other work, the observatory water heater was replaced, fire exit doors were labeled, and emergency lighting was installed. At this writing we have addressed all issues and continue to work toward a safer work environment.

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Contact Us

Richard P. Boyle, S.J.
VATT Telescope Scientist

Tel: +1 (0)520 621 3230


Christopher J. Corbally, S.J.
President of the National Committee to IAU

Tel: +1 (0)520 621 3225


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