Using the Paramount ME
to Acquire Real Time Video of
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This page shows how the
Paramount ME coupled with TheSky6 Astronomy Software and an inexpensive
video camera can be used to acquire real time video Iridium flares. The
Paramount ME can be used to track a wide range of low-earth object
Satellite Transits Moon then Flares!
This interesting video was captured the
morning of June 9, 2007 with a
from Golden Colorado. The satellite Iridium 66
transits the Moon moments before flaring. (Copyright 2007 Software
Iridium 66 transits the Moon
Just before the flare!
TheSkyX's Predicted Position
~-6.1 magnitude flare
Feb 15 2007 -
Expands to 40 megs - AVI!
Video Time Stamping
From Golden, Colorado at 5:39 a.m. local
time on the morning of August 8th 2006 the
robotic telescope mount with
a 5" Wright Schmidt astrograph and
a sensitive low light level (0.003 lux) live video camera were
used to track on Iridium satellite #13. The field of view of the video is
about 30 arcminutes 1/2 a degree just enough to comfortably fit the moon!
Or soon Mars ;). The scale is ~10 arcseconds/pixel.
TheSkyX is used to predict Iridium flares.
Notice the stars "zipping" through the field as the fast moving satellite
is tracked. TheSky6 was
used to compute the satellite's rates, and these are then supplied to the
Paramount ME to
track on the satellite.
NOTE: No additional adjustments were made to
Paramount ME; the mount autonomously acquired the satellite and locked on.
Here is the
setup that was used.
Iridium Flare Video Acquired in broad
Prediction time using
TheSkyX was 6:12:56 local time for Golden CO. The
flare magnitude was predicted to be approximately -3.5. Here no
adjustments were made to the mount, the satellite was not visible prior to
the flare. The pointing inaccuracy is due to the limitations of the two
line orbital elements used, not the telescope's ability to point. There is
an uncertainty on the order of several arcminutes, hence the smaller scope
was used for a wider field.
Sun above horizon
6:12:56 p.m. local time 00:12:53 UT
Video Time Stamping??
<----- Click here for details!
5" Wright Schmidt on top
(Click on image larger version)
Equipment used to make the video
Click here for more pictures!
accurately plot where an
Iridium Flare will
occur make sure that
you have your location, date and time, time zone, and effect of daylight, set correctly in TheSky. Use Data | Site Information. Next you will need to
acquire the Altitude and Azimuth coordinates for where the flare will
occur for a given date and time from the web. Next you will need a very
recent version of the Iridium two-line elements for use with
Satellite positions change
constantly. Therefore, the new TLEs should be downloaded very near if not on the date of
the prediction for the best possible accuracy.
Track on Satellite using
by matching satellites changing rates!
and C-14 were tracking on the satellite. Look closely and you
will see the trailing stars on the left. A 67 second CCD image using the
SBIG ST-9 was then taken near the flare predicted time. And yep it
was there. NOTE this is a VERY small field less than 10 arcminutes square!
The telescope pointing was off a bit
because there was no TPoint model and this is a VERY small field of view. More to
First Attempt so Flare with
Tracking ON the satellite
First obtain the necessary
two line elements
(TLE'S) from the web. The most convenient way to do this is use
TheSky6's link to the Celestrak page. Also make sure the
date/time in question have been properly set in
Import From Web
Also apply "Plot Paths"
Choose Iridium Satellites
From the list
When you have the TLE's
loaded and the proper date and time set you will see exactly where the
flare occurs. The following shows the satellite path BEFORE
and AFTER the flare. This makes finding the object much
easier. The label Iridium 60 falls exactly at the position of the
flare, note exact time of flare shown.
Now TheSky shows the spot
where the flare
Here is where
and when the flare occurs
After you have the necessary
Altitude and Azimuth coordinates and the date and time for when and where
the flare will occur for your location use the TheSky6's menu item Data | Add User Data to add a
new "Horizon coordinate" data entry. See below. Choose a Data Class of type "Labels" and
an Object Type of "Reference Point" as shown below. The label you
enter will be the Date and Time of the flare and this will be plotted on
the main sky display at the precise position where the flash occurs.
Label when and where the flare will occur
Enter a Horizon based coordinate
and label the date
Use the "CENTER" button above to have TheSky
display centered on the field where the flare will occur.
Altitude and Azimuth of
Flare position relative to digital horizon
No guess work now!
Enable Reference Points
You can use the handy Orientation
| Move To feature to quickly
center on the Iridium Flare coordinates as well. This will save you from having to search for this
particular spot in that you are taken directly there. First MAKE SURE you have the correct date, time, and
location set to when the Flare occurs in the menu option Data | Site
Hint: You can
right mouse click on the main TheSky display and choose Move To from the
Orientation | MoveTo
the Horizon based coordinates
Check to see if you have the
Object Type "Reference Points" set to visible under the menu item
View | Filters. You also need to have your common labels turned on
under View | Labels Common Names. Since these objects are so
bright you only need to be looking in the general direction of the flare,
i.e. the constellation in which the flare occurs. You cannot miss
the bright ones. Make sure you are looking a little before the
predicted time so that you do not miss it. The estimated times for
the flash are extremely accurate!
If you wish to center the position where
the "flare" occurs connect to the telescope first, disable tracking, then
use the Slew button on the Move To Dialog. Now just sit back and
wait for the proper time. Using a wide field live video or even a
large CCD at prime focus you can easily image the event!
Enter horizon coordinates
The choose Slew to
Find Satellite by
Or pick from the
NOTE: When a satellite is not
currently visible because it is behind the shadow of the Earth the
satellite vector is a lighter color indicating it is not currently
visible. The following shows a satellite just becoming visible out
of the shadow.
above middle is not
Lighter Trail below middle is out of the
HINT: There are times when
enabling the satellite's ID makes it much easier to see, especially when
using large fields of view. In addition to being able to
Find Satellites by name you can
label the moving objects on screen for easy identification.
TheSkyX QT rendered examples
View | Display Explorer
Check the labels you want!