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Bisque TCS, vintage 2005

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wleighty Posted: 10-28-2018 1:56 PM


I installed the Bisque TCS on a custom-made Springfield Mount telescope in 2005 -06, on Maui, HI. See:

We did not operate it under the sky, but only enough to validate basic operations after installing the hardware and motors on the Big Blue telescope, which had been in service on the roof of the Hyatt Regency Maui resort hotel since ~ 1991.

We shipped the disassembled, crated telescope to Socorro, NM, where it has reposed in its crate since.

I will be in Socorro Dec 7-9 to assemble Big Blue indoors on a wood pallet, and hope to find the Bisque TCS working.  Is it supported by Software Bisque now ?  If not, does someone else have experience with it, to help us if we're stuck ?

Thanks very much




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Is it supported by Software Bisque now ?
We'll certainly try...

  • The 2005 model year Bisque TCS should have used the MKS 4000 dual axis control system.  See this document to verify this is correct.
  • The Bisque TCS requires TheSky for operation.  In 2005, that would have been TheSky6 Professional Edition.  Do you plan on using TheSky6?  (It is now retired, and superseded by TheSkyX Professional Edition).
  • Do you have the Bisque TCS-specific settings, or the Bisque TCS Report that shows these settings?  You'll need these settings to configure TheSky to operate the custom mount.  If the Bisque TCS settings are not available, then mount-specific hardware settings (gear reductions, number of gear teeth, homing position, etc.) will need to be determined (counting the teeth on the RA and Dec worms, counting the teeth on the gear reducer(s), determining the position of the homing sensors, etc.).  The MKS 4000 must be configured to use these parameters (either by using the MKS 4000 Serial Port Utility Application, or TheSkyX Professional Edition.
  • Software Bisque recommends using TheSkyX Professional Edition, to configure and control the Bisque TCS/MKS 4000. 
  • TheSky6 can be upgraded to TheSkyX Pro.  There's also a TPoint for Windows upgrade to the TPoint Add On.  See this page for upgrade details.
  • The MKS 4000 PCB is no longer in production.  If, for any reason, the MKS 4000 is no longer operational, the Bisque TCS can be upgraded to the MKS 5000.  While Bisque TCS MKS 4000 to Bisque TCS MKS 5000 upgrades are uncommon, this product is essentially what you'll need.  We can work out upgrade details in the event this is necessary.

We'll go from here.

Daniel R. Bisque

Software Bisque, Inc.

862 Brickyard Circle

Golden, Colorado 80403-8058

Office Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday GMT-7:00

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Friends,   3 Nov 18 AM

Please help us activate the vintage-2006 "Bisque TCS" (Telescope Control System) on the "Big Blue" telescope, at the Magdalena Lyceum, near Socorro, NM, 8-10 December.  I retrofitted the Big Blue drive system in 2006, verifying laptop-to-TCS comm and motor operation, but didn't have time to polar align or observe, because I had to get the 'scope disassembled and crated for shipment to New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM.  NMT

They planned to build a new wheelchair-accessible observatory for it, but haven't yet found the funding for the project. 

Big Blue has reposed in a crate at NMT since 2006.  We plan to uncrate and assemble it at nearby Magdalena, NM, Dec 8-10, verify that the control system works, and consider how to install it to return it to popular use.  We'd like advice from Bisque and others about how best to proceed activating the "Bisque TCS" hardware-software, and whether software upgrades are available which we should acquire before we begin.

Our company, Alaska Applied Sciences, Inc. (AASI) supplied the unique "Big Blue" telescope to the Hyatt Regency Maui in 1991 for installation on the roof of their Lahaina Tower for nightly use in their guest astronomy program "Tour Of The Stars".



The computer guidance system we supplied in 1991 was hand made by retired Penn State professor Frank Zabriskie as the "Astro Computer Control" system, based on the 8085 chip.  It worked well until 2005, when it died, prompting the Hyatt Regency Maui to immediately remove Big Blue and its dead control system, replacing it with an off-shelf Meade 16", which has apparently served Hyatt well since then.

See photos of Big Blue at AASI website, above.  Big Blue is a 16" Coude-Cassegrain on a Springfield Mount, whereby the eyepiece is stationary as the main optical tube scans the sky.  It is basically a German Equatorial Mount, polar aligned. This requires 4 reflections to deliver the converging light pencil to the focuser and eyepiece, including the custom-design 2" binocular viewer we provided to the Hyatt with Big Blue, which carried a pair of 2" Televue 55 mm Plossl eyepieces.  We intended to avoid the uncomfortable "squinting" problem for inexperienced viewers.

Thus, this is an ideal telescope for educational-recreational guest and public programs at low-latitude resorts, worldwide.  It is also an ideal tool for wheelchair-bound viewers, because the eyepiece is stationary, at a comfortable inclination angle of Maui's latitude, 21 degrees. 

Perhaps, at this divisive time in human history, we need to deploy a million, or so, of such instruments to help people better understand who and what and where we are, so that we feel more connected to, and responsible for, our fellow humans and fellow species, and for Earth.  Probably a better investment in "security" than complex new weapons systems.

We will appreciate anyone's advice on how to most easily activate our vintage-2006 "Bisque TCS" on Big Blue, at Magdalena, NM, 8-10 December 2018.

Ideally, we would retain the scope's 21 degree polar angle, operating it in "alt-az with polar alignment error", if such a thing is possible, with Bisque or other hardware-compatible software.

Thank you for your consideration.

Bill Leighty, Principal, AASI             Juneau, Alaska

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I have merged your more-detailed latest post into the thread begun with your first on the same topic.

Did you miss Daniel's earlier reply? It would be helpful if you would check the items he suggested, as well as answer his questions, as much as possible.

Ideally, we would retain the scope's 21 degree polar angle, operating it in "alt-az with polar alignment error", if such a thing is possible, with Bisque or other hardware-compatible software.

From the pictures, especially this one (which I'm not embedding here in case of copyright issues), I see a wedge between the pier and mount base. Are you not able to replace that with one suitable for the new 34° latitude? I should think that could be accommodated while retaining a comfortable viewing position. Reducing the height of the pier or using a slightly elevated viewing platform would probably help.

But—theoretically, at least—you could use the mount with a substantial (~14° in this case) polar alignment error. One problem you'd face is a slow rotation of the field while tracking; that could be compensated for by adding a field (de-)rotator, but if the telescope is being used visually, that's probably not a big concern.

There are other affects from this amount of alignment error, but whether or not they are prohibitive depends upon the capabilities of the mount's drive system and the telescope control system (TCS)—which in this case is apparently our MKS 4000. The TCS would need to be capable of dual-axis tracking with a wide dynamic range, subject to very high rates of change, especially when viewing near the mount's ~RA pole. Mechanically, the drive would need to be able to handle the loads with gravity pulling in a direction 14° different from what it was in Maui.

The MKS 4000 features dual-axis tracking and wide dynamic range, however I'm not sure that it could keep up with the rate of change required near the mount's pole. We'd probably need to do an analysis. Our engineers at Software Bisque are much better able to address this than I, but I'm just letting you know that these are some of the considerations.

Brian S. Rickard
Software Bisque, Inc.

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Bisque Friends,                 19 Nov 18

 Thank you for your helpful replies.  Yes, I missed Daniel's earlier replies.  Sorry. Busy and traveling to ASME international conference.

See:   Deep Decarbonization:     and      SEIG: 

 For this Big Blue resurrection project I will be helped by John Briggs, Magdalena Astronomers, and Dan Klinglesmith, retired astronomy prof from NMT, Socorro.  You probably know them.

Dan has stored the crated scope at NMT for 13 years.  John will haul it to Magdalena Lyceum where I will work on it.

John says they are experienced with your TCS, so I'm relieved that I probably don't need much of your help, after all.

 TheSky 6:                             Yes, we have  TheSky 6 on CD's that came with the TCS.  I expect we will install that on a modest                                                                 laptop for our activation tests.

 TheSkyX Prof:                    You recommend we upgrade.  I see it at your website at $ 225.  Correct for upgrade from                                                             TheSky6 ?  Should we get Sweet Suite, instead ?

                                                 I can buy and upload TheSkyX when I get to NM.

 Bisque TCS Report:          I don't remember how far I got in scope activation in 2005 - 06, whether I had determined the                                                   worm gear ratio.  I believe I had mounted the homing sensors.  I don't know whether that is                                                      documented in papers or CD's packed with the scope.

                                                I will find out when I unpack it on 7 Dec at the Lyceum in Magdalena, NM.

MKS 4000:                           I hope to find the system operational.  We'll see.

 Polar misalignment:        Since this will be an "educational recreational" machine, I'm not concerned with astrophoto-                                                      quality tracking.  I understand the tracking problem near the mount's pole, but not as well as                                                     you folks do.

                                                We will need to discover how it operates with the 13 deg polar error, in that chellenging region. 

                                                Yes, we could make a new  34 deg wedge, but we'd also need to re-attach the counterweight                                                   arm, which would hit the pier otherwise.

                                                21 deg is a comfortable viewing angle for most folks, so I think I'd like to keep it, though 34 deg                                                                 might be better.  We wouldn't know without trying.

                                                If we found a market, to justify a production run, a universal product has great advantages:  a                                                    compromise polar shaft angle with each location accommodated in software.

                                                 I think gravity's effect would be the same at any latitude.  The scope was balanced on Maui and                                                                 would be in NM, but tracking rate would increase in the "polar error cone" I suppose, as you                                                        said .

 I'll give you a report about 11 Dec, to see where to go from here.

Thanks very much for your help.


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I will be helped by John Briggs, Magdalena Astronomers, and Dan Klinglesmith, retired astronomy prof from NMT, Socorro.  You probably know them.

Speaking only for myself, I know John from our mutual days at the Denver Astronomical Society, though he probably doesn't remember me. Some of my cohorts here may know Dan (and John as well).

I see it at your website at $ 225.  Correct for upgrade from TheSky6 ?

Yes, if you've registered a serial number for TheSky6 to your Software Bisque Community member account, then you are eligible to purchase an upgrade to TheSkyX Professional Edition for USD $225 (download-only price), which is a $104 savings.

Also, as Daniel mentioned, you could similarly register and upgrade TPoint for Windows to the TPoint Add On to TheSkyX Professional Edition for $149, saving another $100.

Should we get Sweet Suite, instead ?

That would be up to you, but if you're eligible for the upgrades, getting them and any other desired add-ons individually would be cheaper than a Suite bundle.

All editions (MYT, MX/MX+ and ME II) of the Paramount Software Suite include TheSkyX Professional Edition, the Camera and TPoint software add-ons, as well as the Multi-OS and Six-License Add On. To this, the ME II edition adds the Dome Add On.

Paramount MYT Software Suite
Paramount MX/MX+ Software Suite
Paramount ME II/Taurus Software Suite

If you instead get the upgrades to TheSkyX Professional Edition and the TPoint Add On (total of $374), then add the $150 Camera Add On and $249 Multi-OS and Six-License Add On, the total would be $773. That's about $150 cheaper than a Paramount Software Suite, but it's $73 more than instead getting the Universal Subscription Upgrade, which gets you all of the above plus the otherwise $249 Dome Add On.

Yes, we could make a new  34 deg wedge, but we'd also need to re-attach the counterweight arm, which would hit the pier otherwise.

Ah, I'd not noticed that in the pictures before now.

I think gravity's effect would be the same at any latitude.

The magnitude is essentially identical, but I was referring to the direction. If the drive mechanism depends upon gravity pulling in a particular direction, then the 14° different angle might pose a problem. I don't think this is likely, but wanted to point it out, in case it is a factor.

Brian S. Rickard
Software Bisque, Inc.

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Bisque Friends,         16 Dec 18

John Briggs and I assembled the Big Blue telescope 7-9  Dec at his Lyceum in Magdalena, NM, 30 miles west of Socorro, NM, at 7,000 ft elevation.
See attached photos.

John is the Big Blue custodian, for awhile, and has generously and kindly agreed to finish preparing it for open sky service, probably at least temporarily at his FOAH Observatory and Astronomical Lyceum in Magdalena.
It is indoors on  pallet, now. 

John is very familiar with the Bisque TCS, probably the later REV, but may need some advice from you.  He will probably need to initialize the TCS on his computer, beginning with gear ratios.  He is CC'd, here. 
John is very expert and experienced in all things astronomical.  Perhaps you know each other.
I don't know the worm ratio, which is the same on both axes.  John must determine that experimentally, to be sure.  These are Thomas Mathis worm drives.

Thank you for your help.

Bill Leighty

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