Common Problems and Solutions

Important Contacts:

If you run into a problem, you can call Prof. Tammy Smecker-Hane (824-7773 at work, 509-7195 at home anytime).

Common Problems with the Portable GPS Telescopes

  1. Please note that the Meade 8" and 12" LX200 GPS telescopes require a 12 V, 5 amp power supply. Thus the power supplies for the Meade LX200 GPS telescopes are interchangeable. However, the 11" Celestron (the one that the Astronomy Club uses) requires a different power supply, one that is 12 V, 1.5 (or 2) amp. Therefore, you cannot switch the Meade and Celestron power supplies! The Celestron power supply will be marked with tape that says "Celestron 11" ONLY".
  2. If you align the telescopes using the 2 star algorithm and it is not successful then the most likely cause is that you have mis-identified the two stars. Consult your night sky map again and make sure you know the correct names of the stars.

If you need to reboot

If ucirob crashes you may need to reboot the machine. You can't simply reboot the computer because the computer will be sending random signals to the rack. If you do, you're likely to get random motion of both the shutter, dome and lights! Instead follow this sequence:

  1. Turn off the power to the rack (red button on top of rack) and turn off the power to the AC controllable outlet box (red button on the middle box in the rack) .
  2. Reboot the computer.
  3. Enter ucirob, which will set the state of the electronic input to the crate. Then exit ucirob.
  4. Turn the rack and AC controllable outlet box back on.
  5. Restart ucirob. Send the dome to the home position (Telescope/Send Dome Home) to make sure its properly initialized.

Below are some common problems experienced with the 24-inch telescope and how to go about solving them:
  1. The dome does not rotate, and/or the slit does not open/close.

    Check to be sure the toggle switch on the light grey control box mounted on the wall to the right of the Observatory door is flipped to the "Automatic" position so that the computer can control the dome. Next cycle the power on the Auxiliary I/O box (turn off the switch on the middle panel of crate, wait 5 sec, then turn it back on) and try to move the dome in ucirob. That should fix it.

    If not, to test whether the dome can move at all, you can flip the toggle to  "Manual" on the box on the wall and move the dome using the "Slew Dome" toggle switch. Also, you should make sure the small controller box labeled "DC Speed Control", which is sitting on the back side of the crate, has its toggle switch set to "Run CW" and the rate set to 50 units. If the dome does not move in manual mode and the DC Speed Control box is not powering up then a fuse is likely blown, and it will require maintenance to fix.

    However if the dome is open, do not leave it open; call someone to come out and close it. If you can move the dome manually to its home position (the two black box boxes overlap one another) then you can manually close the shutter by flipping the middel toggle labeled "Shutter" up to "Manual" then when its closed flit it back down to "Auto".

  2. Mirror covers won't open/close.

    The N+S mirror covers open first then the E+W mirror covers open. If one of the N or S covers doesn't open then the E+W covers will remain shut. You can get up on the ladder and gently open them by hand, if needed. The electrical connectors to the mirror cover drive motors sometime become dislodged. Unfortunately these connectors are relatively easy to dislodge, but on the upside this helps prevent the exposed motor terminals from being broken off instead. If the mirror covers won't open, check to make sure the electrical connectors are making contact. If that doesn't work, check the controller on the bottom of the crate and make sure the "Automatic" mode is selected rather than "Manual" mode. That way the computer can control the mirror covers. Its common to have someone accidentally kick the switch into the wrong position.

  3. The telescope will not initialize or will not move.

    Check that the the power cord for the RA/Dec amplifiers did not come loose. These cords go into the back of the crate in the middle panel that is blank. See if the power lights are on. You can tell whether the amps are on by trying to move the telescope by hand.  When the amps are on, current through the motor coils makes it impossible to turn the motors manually.  When the amps are off, the motors turn freely.  

  4. CCDAuto crashes during use.

    Unlink the ST6, if you're using it. Then power down the CCDs (click on the "CCDs" button on the ucirob program), wait a minute, then power back up and try it again. Everything should work ok.

  5. Cannont link to CCDs.

    If you cannot link to the CCDs, it may be that they are not getting power from the crate. We've had power spikes before that blow out the powerstrip that the CCDs are plugged into. To check this, power up the CCDs ("CCDs" button in ucirob program), and plug the desk lamp into the powerstrip that the CCDs are plugged into, which resides on top of the red tool cabinet. If the strip is dead, just plug the CCDs into another powerstrip and use an extension cord to get power from the outlet across the room under the printer. Contact Jim Kelley and ask him to fix the problem.

  6. The red light and fan on the CCD does not turn on after hitting the CCD power button on UCIrob.

    Check to see if the USB cord is properly plugged into the computer controlling the CCD. For CCDAuto, this should be the Linux PC. For CCDOps, this should be the Windows PC.

  7. A star at the center of the ST9 imaging CCD is not where it should be on the ST6 finder CCD.

    Check to see if the ST9 CCD has rotated with respect to the telescope. The flat side of the CCD should be parallel to the bottom of the telescope. Sometimes when the telescope makes very large moves near the horizon, the CCD is jolted out of position and must be reset by hand. If the ST9 is in the correct position, a star is at the center of the ST9, but well off to the side of the ST6 CCD, then the finder scope's orientation relative to the 24" telescope needs to be adjusted. Let the faculty or TAs know of the problem and let them make the adjustment, because its a little tricky. 

  8. Telescope thinks its at the wrong focus setting.

    If you have changed the focus of the telescope and have not exited ucirob's Focus window when the telescope crashes, then the telescope thinks its at the wrong focus position. To fix this, write down the TUV settings that you think the telescope was left on and contact Tammy Smecker-Hane and have her edit these into the /home/UCIrob/Scope.dat file so that the next time you enter ucirob the telescope will know the correct focus position. Note also that the focus sets for CCD, EyePiece and Spectrograph are stored in the focus.dat file.

  9. The CCD frosts over.

    If the CCD frosts over, you need to turn off the temperature regulation, allow the CCD to warm back up, and then turn back on the temperature regulation, but set it to a higher temperature. The CCDs aught to be able to be set to about 25 degrees below ambient temperature.

    Note that the dessicant plug in the CCD need to be baked out periodically to remove moisture. SBIG recommends baking the dessicant plugs for 4 hrs in an oven at 375 degrees. If you remove a dessicant plug then you either need to put in the dummy plug (its a spare we have that is black in color and you can tell it from the other plugs because inside it does not have wire screen mesh that the others do) or tape over the hole with electrical tape so that moisture doesn't get inside the camera. Be careful and make sure you do NOT bake the black rubber O-ring with the dessicant plug or loose it!

  10. the Instrument Selector Won't Stop Spinning the Diagonal Mirror.

    If the instrument selector won't stop spinning the diagonal mirror,  it means the solenoids that stop it in the various positions are not being properly energized. There have been a couple related issues in the past. But the power supplies in the rack will crowbar if they get a surge. And there's something about rebooting the computer that causes this. The only way to un-crowbar the power supplies is to cycle the power switch on the front panel of the controller box (the bottom box in the crate labeled "AutoScope TCS-200"). Cycle the power (orange button). Turn it off, wait 5 secs, and turn it back on. That should solve the problem.

    Note, in normal operation, the instrument selector knob on the side of the instrument selector should be set to "A" so that that the telescope can control it automatically.

  11. XEphem won't link to the 24" Telescope

    If you ungracefully exit XEphem (either the computer crashes or you hit the "X" on the upper RHS of the XEphem window rather than exit with File/Close) then it may lock and not let you relink again. The error says to look in the /home/observer/XEphem/lx200xed.log file for more info, and
    that file, which is owned by root, says:
         lx200_open_scope (getting message queue ID): No such file or directory
         queue: Invalid argument
    You solve this problem using ucirob, not XEphem. Close XEphem then in ucirob, on the top menu bar, click on Remote Link" and select "Close Link" then select "Open Link" and restart XEphem and the problem should be solved.

  12. A Drawer in the Red Tool Box/Chest will not open

    If a drawer of the red tool box/chest located to the left of the telescope pier won't open then its because you have another drawer open. This tool chest will only allow one drawer to be open at a time in order to prevent it from tipping over. Make sure all the other drawers are closed and also make sure the lid to the lowest open compartment is pushed all the way back, and then the drawers will open.

T. Smecker-Hane
UCI Observatory
Last updated on 04/03/13
Department of Physics & Astronomy