Radio Eyes Help
Controlling a Telescope with Radio Eyes 

Radio Eyes helps you automate observations in three ways:

  1. It establishes observation schedules that can accommodate multiple observation tasks.
  2. It can automatically point the antenna towards the object at the proper time.
  3. It can trigger data collection via Radio-SkyPipe software to record the observation.

The graphical interface of Radio Eyes is an excellent workplace for establishing observation tasks. You will see the word "task" used throughout this discussion. A task is here taken as any of a number of observation procedures appropriate to radio astronomy. Multiple tasks may be added to a task list and saved as file for later retrieval. You may also just want to execute a task once. For example, you may just want to track the Sun for a few minutes to test your equipment.  In this case, the task is called an "manual task" and does not become a permanent part of the task list.

While the diagram above may look complex, the telescope user will generally be spared much of the complexity because most of the user interaction is via the Radio Eyes program.  It became clear early on in development that it would be desirable to have the telescope work asynchronously from Radio Eyes. What does that mean?  It means that Radio Eyes should be able to send out commands to the telescope and then go on with its business without constantly checking for the telescopes progress in completing the tasks.   Conversely, if anything should happen to the Radio Eyes program (heaven forbid), there should be no chance that some relay or motor gets stuck in an on position waiting for a stop command from Radio Eyes.  An intelligent intermediary program was needed between RE and the telescope. The unglamorous name for this software is the Telescope Control Point Program, or just Control Point.  

As far as Radio Eyes is concerned the Telescope Control Point Program is part of the telescope itself. The Telescope Control Point Program accepts one time manual tasks from Radio Eyes or lists of tasks. It also sends back to Radio Eyes information about the telescopes current pointing position, the on-status of motors, and limit switch or error information.  It does this via a TCP network link so that Radio Eyes and the Telescope Control Point Program (and thus the telescope) do no have to reside on the same computer (though they may). In fact, the telescope could exist on the other side of the world and Radio Eyes could still manage its movement. Tasks that are passed to the Telescope Control Point program may not have fixed times or positions associated with their execution. For example, a drift scan task may be requested for the moon to start one hour before until one hour after it transits. The moon transits at a different time and elevation every night!  The Telescope Control Point program is smart enough to figure out when and where the moon transit will occur for the telescope's latitude and longitude. This way, tasks may be repeated over time with minimal intervention.

There is no standard command format for controlling radiotelescope antennas. Most antenna control mechanisms are cobbled together from available motors and homebrew control mechanisms or one of a few commercial rotator controllers.  This creates a dilemma for anyone wanting to create a  generally usable control interface program.  In an effort to address this, Radio Eyes uses drivers designed specifically for use with a given piece of hardware or rotator control program.  In the diagram above the Telescope Driver translates commands form the Telescope Control Point program into a format that can either be sent directly to the hardware or to the hardware via some other software interface. Drivers will be made available as they are written.  The Telescope Control Point Program and Telescope Driver reside on the same PC.  The end user will probably never work directly with the Telescope Driver other than to ensure that it exists in TelescopeDrivers subdirectory so that the Telescope Control Point Program can find it.

The Telescope Control Point Program also has responsibility for optionally controlling data collection via the Radio-SkyPipe program. Of course, you can use any data collection means you wish but if Radio-SkyPipe fills your needs, the Telescope Control Point Program can turn off and on data collection and load specific sets of data collection parameters, (such as sample rate, ADC channels, metadata, etc.), appropriate for any given observation.

Important related topics are:

Tasks Overview
Telescope Control Point Program
The Task Editor
Telescope Definitions
Telescope Editor
Task Files
Using Radio-SkyPipe with Radio Eyes
Tutorial to Get You Started

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