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Fairborn Institute Robotic Observatory

The Fairborn Institute Robotic Observatory (FIRO) is accessed remotely over the Internet by students and staff members. It features an 11-inch telescope with Schmidt-Cassegrain optics, a Sidereal Technology control system with on-axis Renishaw encoders, and a mount designed and built by undergraduate students at Cal Poly and Institute staff members. It is equipped with a ZWO ASI 1600 MM CMOS camera behind Sloan griz filters and a 1.5X Barlow. The observatory is remotely operated most clear nights, and its high-speed computer is accessed remotely during the day for data reduction and analysis. The Institute will be a participant in speckle interferometry observations using a 1-meter PlaneWave Instruments telescope in Chile.

Relocation to Payson

The Fairborn Institute’s robotic observatory (FIRO) is being relocated from Santa Margarita, on California’s Central Coast, to Payson, Arizona. Payson, elevation 5000 feet, is a small town in the mountains of northern Arizona.


A new and somewhat larger enclosure is being built. Below are occasional progress reports on the construction of the new enclosure and reassembly of the telescope and associated equipment.

Entry 1: New Home in Payson Arizona

Date: 4/20/2021

Making progress on the new FIRO.  When the planned trees were removed, it became clear (excuse the pun) that if one very tall additional tree was removed, that most of the northern sky would be accessible.  So it came down (a bit sad, but sacrifices have to be made for the benefit of science).


With the northern sky now open, I've had to change my enclosure design.  Plan B is to stick with a tilt off roof (not enough room for a roll off and I prefer tilt offs), but have the southern and northern halves of the roof tilt off independently with the southern half be the fist tilt off and the northern half also tilted off only when I need access to the northern sky.  Should have a scale drawing shortly.  The enclosure will be ~ 8x8 feet.  The pitched roof will be Alumalite on an aluminum angle frame.  Fully and exactly counter weighted.  


Pier pouring and enclosure construction probably a July project (Cheryl and I will soon be returning to CA for a month to wrap things up there).  May try and make it a "barn raising" type of project with help from local and Phoenix-area astronomy friends.  Hope to have the enclosure completed by the end of July so I'll have August and the first part of September to get the telescope up and running by the middle of September when it will be post monsoon and safe to observe.

Entry 2: making Good Progress...

Date: 4/24/2021

Cheryl watches as the contractors, Larry Smith (left) and Kevin (right) move the frame for the floor and template to the backyard.  The large square slightly offset from the center is where the pier bolts will be accessed with a removable plywood "hatch."  Overall, the observatory is 7x7 feet, significantly bigger than the enclosure in California.  This will allow the telescope to be parked in any position and also allow someone to be inside with the telescope.

The template has been removed from the floor frame to site the holes and then SonoTubes that will support the floor.  You can see that the concrete has been poured into the SonoTubes which has rebar and joist supports.  


Tomorrow will probably dig out the hole for the pier, and Monday may pour the pier base.  Progress!

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