Guide to Using Itzamna

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What is Itzamna?

Itzamna is a web-based interface for controlling and using the Stone Edge Observatory (SEO) telescope hosted on an instant messaging site called Slack.

To use Itzamna, one must first reserve time on the telescope, which can be done on the on the sidebar to the right of this page. Once you have reserved time, contact Amanda Pagul ([email protected]) to join the SEO workspace on Slack. After joining the SEO workspace, you will be invited the the #itzamna channel, from which you will be able to use the SEO telescope. The #itzamna channel should look like this:

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Basic Itzamna Commands

Itzamna is designed to emulate a command line interface: the user inputs simple commands in order to operate the telescope and access other important functions. Here is a run down of important Itzamna commands. Important: Don’t enter a new command until the previous command has been completed. Sending Itzamna too many commands too quickly or sending the same command repeatedly can lead to undesired results or even telescope malfunction.

    • \help
      • The \help command brings up a menu of Itzamna commands and a short description of each one. This is a good first command to enter when first using Itzamna. Also included in the \help menu is a link to a page to report issues and bugs in Itzamna.
    • \where
      • The \where command returns the Right Ascension (RA) and Declination (Dec.) coordinates of where the telescope is currently pointed.
    • \weather
      • The \weather command gives a brief report of current weather conditions in Sonoma. Note that these measurements are taken at a nearby weather station, not at/for SEO.
    • \forecast
      • The \forecast command gives a detailed 12 hour forecast of Sonoma.
    • \focus
      • The \focus command returns the current focus position of the telescope. The optional <position> parameter allows the user to set the current focus position.
    • \clearsky
      • The \clearsky command returns an image of the most recent Clear Sky charts for the Sonoma area. For more information on how to read Clear Sky charts, visit this page.
      • The “Sonoma” output is generally the more relevant one.
    • \skycam
      • The \skycam command returns images taken from sky cameras in the Sonoma area. This command is particularly useful if you want to get a clear idea of sky conditions or if the cloud sensor (\clouds) malfunctions.
    • \find <object>
      • The \find <object> command requires the user to enter an <object> parameter. Itzamna will return a numbered list of astronomical objects matching your search query. Each object on the list will be associated with RA/Dec. coordinates and Altitude/Azimuth coordinates. Itzamna uses the SIMBAD astronomical database.
      • The \find <object> command is fairly flexible. For example, \find m42, \find messier 42, and \find orion nebula all return the same result.
      • The order of the list items that \find returns is very important: those object numbers are used as parameters in the \plot, \point, and \pinpoint commands. Because of this, it is very important to execute the \find <object> command before running \plot <object#>, \point <object#>, or \pinpoint <object#>


    • \plot <object#>
      • The \plot <object#> command returns a graph of your target’s visiblity over the next 24 hours. Always use this command after executing the \find <object> command, since the object numbers returned in the \find <object> correspond directly to the <object#> parameter in the \plot <object#> command. For example, if \find <object> returns the following list:
        \find object list
        and the user wants to plot the visibility of list item 4, he/she would execute the command \plot 4. Note that the default <object#> parameter is 1, so, in this case, \plot would plot the visibility of M4, the first object on the list.
      • The light blue background is a good hour angle, black is dark, and gray is twilight.
    • \lock, \unlock, and \share
        • The \lock command locks the telescope so that no other users may send commands to Itzamna. You should run the \lock command before observing to ensure that no other Slack users interfere with your observation session. When you are finished with your session, be sure to execute the \unlock command to restore access to all members of the Slack workspace.
        • If you would like to have a collaborative observation session and share the telescope with other Slack users, use the share <on/off> command to toggle the share function, which allows other users to send commands to Itzamna.
    • \crack and \squeeze
      • The \crack command opens the slit of the SEO dome. This should be done before executing the \pinpoint command or taking any images. The \squeeze command closes the slit of the dome, and should always be done when you are finished observing.
  • \point <object#> and \pinpoint <object#>
      • The \point <object#> command points the telescope at the desired object (designated by the <object> parameter). Much like \plot<object#>, \point <object#> should only be executed after the user has executed the \find <object> command. Again, the default value for <object#> is 1.
      • The \pinpoint <object#> command should be used when the telescope pointing is miscalibrated, resulting in inaccurate pointing. \pinpoint <object#> may take more time than \point <object#> to execute, since the pinpoint command takes diagnostic images to recalibrate the telescope’s coordinates.
      • Don’t \pinpoint at planets. A 10-second exposure is too much intensity for the CCD.
  • \image <exposure> <binning> <filter>
      • Once the telescope is pointed to the target object, you are ready to take an image! The \image command will take an image of wherever the telescope is pointing. \image requires three parameters.
        • <exposure> and <filter>
          • More information about proper exposure time and SEO’s filters can be found on the FAQ page. Values for exposure time should be entered as integers (“seconds” is the default unit) and filter names should be entered as they appear on the FAQ page.
        • <binning>
          • Binning is essentially a measure of the “resolution” of your image. A good starting point is bin2, but higher resolution images can be attained with bin1. Note that exposure time and binning should be inversely proportional. More information on binning can be found here.
          • Do not go larger than bin3. It should stay around the same as the point spread function (PSF), which is the minimum FWHM found by the focus routine.
        • Example
          • If you want to take an image with a 60s exposure time, bin2, and the h-alpha filter, your command should look like this: \image 60 2 h-alpha. Note that your telescope should be pointed at the desired target before executing this command.

    Observing tips

  • One can reliably start observing once the sun is below -18 degrees altitude.
  • One must point above 30 degrees altitude.
  • SEO likes to observe between -80 and +80 Hour Angle.