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Technical Innovations Dome Features

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Dome Sizes

HOME-DOME observatories are available in diameters of either 6 feet (183cm), or 10 feet (305cm). The 6 foot diameter observatory is offered in your choice of either a short model (HD-6S), or a tall version (HD-6T). The HD6T is a free-standing dome with a 45" high wall (including door) that you will bolt onto a deck or concrete pad. The HD6S or the HD10 is the dome to choose if you prefer to build your own walls. Both of these models are furnished with a base ring which will permit you to bolt the dome on to the top of your foundation/wall.

PRO-DOME diameters are made in diameters of 10 feet, and 15 feet (457cm). The base ring of these models includes a door. We offer matching fiberglass wall rings which may be "stacked" one on another in order to make a wall whatever height you need.

ROBO-DOME is our smallest Technical Innovations dome; it is big enough for a small automated telescope but can not accommodate a person. This dome is oval shaped, with a very compact footprint that is approximately 40 inches (101.6cm) by 50 inches (127cm). The dome diameter of rotation is 40 inches.

The dome specifications are published at our Dome Specifcations page.

By stacking the modular wall rings for the 10 foot or 15 foot domes, fiberglass walls of any reasonable height can be assembled to meet your telescope and pier height requirements. PRO-DOME Models PD10 and PD15 include a full height entrance door (using the slot opening as part of the doorway), thereby allowing access or egress without having to duck-under doors or high walls.

The HOME-DOME Model HD6T has a standard wall which is 45 inches (114cm) high, and includes a door. The height of the ROBO-DOME base is 25" (63.5cm), but of course the dome is not designed to be entered into.

The modular concept of these domes provides the user with the alternative of building walls to accommodate the HD-6S, the HD-10, or any of our dome sizes. Take a look at the photos on the Technical Innovations section of our web site to examine a number of examples of customers' creative wall designs.

Every HOME-DOME, PRO-DOME and ROBO-DOME has a wide slot opening, extending past zenith. On the 6, 10 and 15 foot domes there are two shutters which move up-and-over the slot opening; these will automatically disengage during opening to nest together at the rear of the dome when open. This patented Technical Innovations design makes the full shutter opening available to the astronomer (and assists in sky orientation for students).

The smaller ROBO-DOME incorporates one moving shutter.

Shutter width:

  • ROBO-DOME        24 inches (61cm)
  • HD6S/HD6T          30" inches (76cm)
  • PD10/HD10           36" inches (91cm)
  • PD15                      48" inches (122cm)
The domes turn easily on hard rubber faced, ball bearing rollers each of 3 inches (76mm) diameter. These rollers are mounted in the top of the dome base ring. The 6 and 10 foot domes are engineered so that a person of average build can manually rotate the dome quite easily.

Electric motors

While about half of dome owners choose to operate the smaller domes manually, motors for shutter operation and for the precise rotation of the dome are among the available options for the 6 and 10 foot domes. These features can be added at any time (at the time of original installation, or later) to the 6 and 10 foot domes. The 6 and 10 foot domes are designed so that the user of the dome or a local electrician can install the optional electronic motors. Furthermore, one may provide optional electronic motors to open and close the shutters.

Motors for shutter operation and rotation are included as standard equipment with the PD-15 and the automated ROBO-DOME.

All of these motors are powered by 12 Volt DC; this is typically provided from an AC to DC power supply, or from banks of rechargeable batteries (such as from an UPS systems). We do offer a power supply to convert your electric service at the dome (please specify your choice of either 110 or 220 VAC) to provide the 12 VDC 10 amps.

It is possible to wire the motor control switches for control of these functions directly at the dome, or to operate the dome motors remotely. Remember that if you intend to automate your dome, then it must be motorized.

Technical Innovations offer two levels of dome automation systems. These are briefly compared at our Dome Control Systems comparison page.

    Dome-Works is a non-computer, semi-automation system featuring an infra-red device that slaves the dome position to the telescope's position, and provides a read-out of the dome azimuth position (in degrees). Dome-Works does not provide for control of the dome shutter.

    Digital Dome Works (DDW) is a computer based automation system which allows you to open and close the shutter, and control the dome rotation azimuth so that it precisely and continuously matches the telescope position. While the basic DDW is designed primarily for situations where the control room and the observatory are located no more than 400 feet apart, we offer options that allows you to operate an observatory from great distances, even with contol through the Internet. In the case of DDS you choose the components needed to fit your situation.

Digital Dome Works includes PC based software that displays all control and operating data to the user. DDW includes dozens of services for the user either inside the observatory or at a remote location. For example a "smart" hand control allows the user to in the observatory to turn dome slaving off and on, or return the dome to a "home" position with a single button push. The system incorporates interlocks which will automatically close the dome if the communication link is broken, or if you step away fro an extended period and may have forgotten to close the dome. DDW can even shut off the drive on many telescopes when the dome closes thereby protecting the equipment against "wire wrapping". There are provisions for remote operation of auxiliary equipment, and remote voltage measurement.

Digital Dome Works includes dozens of operating features. Some of these depend on your remote control telescope being able to accept these commands:

  • Remote dome rotation; you choose azimuth or slave dome to the telescope
  • Remote shutter operation (in home position only)
  • Automatic dome closing in case communication is lost
  • Feedback on status of interlocks, shutter position, dome azimuth position
  • Automatic motor shut-down if rotation motor slips
  • Session duration interlock provides automatic closure
  • Smart hand control provides basic rotation and shutter functions, plus easy shortcuts (go home, open/close, slave on/off, etc.)
  • Ability to slave dome to telescope even without using computer
  • User adjustable dead zones (sets how closely dome moves to match scope)
  • Software adjusts for off center scopes and German Equatorials
  • Automatic telescope park functions when dome closes
  • Two channels of user remote control built-in
  • Two channels of user remote voltage measurement (ADC's) built in
  • DDW drives 12V observatory motors directly, with adjustable ramp up and operating speeds
  • Easy add-on of options and upgrades at any time
  • Windows-based dome control program (included) can be used with with your choice of software for telescope/CCD control, tested with Microsoft Vista and Windows 7
  • Open software architecture allows you to write your own control programs, if desired. (Taking advantage of this feature, some of our Mac and Linux customers are writing their own control programs.)
  • Works with optional software (ACP Astronomers Control Panel for example) for scripting with third party software including MaximDL to run a facility unattended for imaging, spectroscopy, etc. all night long
  • compatible. (ASCOM is a new set of guidelines for easy script control of your equipment and software.)
DDW is the automation system supplied with ROBO-DOME.

The DDW control unit in the observatory contains two microprocessors which control the observatory motors, sensors and other devices. The control unit connects via an RS232 communication line to the controlling computer which runs the DDW Control Program (included with DDW). The Control Program provides the human interface: buttons allow commands to be sent to DDW (e.g., OPEN dome), and then data returned from DDW is displayed (e.g., diagram of dome rotation and shutter positions), and configurations may be set (e.g., set the telescope mount parameters).

If the distance between the observatory and the user is more than a few hundred feet, then the RS232 protocol is no longer suitable. Or if multiple users must gain access to the observatory, then a different type of communication must be used (e.g., telephone, network, or Internet). In such cases, you will need a computer in the observatory (to run programs and handle communications for all the observatory devices). You will probably need some of the DDW options as well. Options include:

  • Weather Station: a monitor to inform user of remote weather conditions, and support interlocks to prevent observatory operation in bad weather
  • Remote Power Module to allow remote operation of 120 (or 220) Volt AC devices
  • User Input/Output Adapter to allow convenient use of DDW I/O services
  • Video Monitor to allow remote observation of the interior of the observatory
  • Multi Port Serial board for the computer to support use of multiple devices in the observatory
  • TheSky® Version 5 or similar compatible software to provide telescope control and support observatory slaving to the telescope
  • PCAnywhere® software to allow the remote operation of a computer located in the dome

Weather and temperature issues
Weather protection is assured by overlapping dome flanges and baffling, not by seals that will wear out or deteriorate. Temperature control is provided by a brilliant white exterior gel coat that normally keeps inside temperature to within a few degrees of the shade temperature, so no cool-down period is required before your observing session begins. A dark blue interior helps preserve d"night vision" adaptation.

ROBO-DOME  is shipped completely assembled.

All other domes are shipped in large sections requiring only simple bolt-together construction. All assembly bolts are made of stainless steel. Most hardware for assembly is provided, except the foundation bolts. Assembly requires alignment of the parts, measuring and drilling bolt holes, and use of common hand and power tools. Larger holes, for rollers and latches, are cut and finished at the factory. Typically, domes are assembled in place by two or three persons, without cranes or special equipment. Motors and automation require addition time but no special equipment. We offer factory pre-assembly as an add-on service.

Observatory - US Patent #5,448.860
DomeTrak - US Patent # 5,621,212

Schematic Drawing - Pro-Dome 10


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