Linux, Talon and Astronomy

A new open-source application lets professional and amateur astronomers explore space from their desktops.
Using Talon

Putting Talon to use requires a few initial calibration items. As with any telescope, you'll need to check and adjust the polar alignment—the physical location of the telescope in relation to celestial north.

With xobs in the boot.cfg script, the main Talon screen should open right after your desktop loads. From this main screen, select Find Homes (Figure 6). As noted, this routine finds the home mark on each encoder, RA, HA and Focus. From the pop-up window, select All. The telescope should move in all axes. Each axis skips past the home mark initially, backing up incrementally until it finds the mark again. This reduction of each move to the home mark ensures that the telescope ends up precisely on the mark.

Figure 6. Finding Home

The next step is to find limits. This routine locates the telescope's physical limit switches, which prevent the telescope from damaging itself by swinging too far through the travel of each axis. When the switches at both ends of travel are found in an axis, the software writes the location (in encoder counts) to the home.cfg file. You should need to complete the find limits routine only one time.

With the telescope calibrated and aligned, it's time to take some pictures. Open the camera and xephem applications from the command line. Enable telescope control in the xephem options. Select an object by right-clicking in the ephemeris, then select Point Telescope from the resulting pop-up. The telescope should slew to the new position. Click on the camera application and select Take One. With the proper connection to the camera, you'll hear the shutter trip. Within a few seconds, an image of the selected object renders on your screen.

To set up scheduled operations, use the telsched command. In the resulting window, select the size of the mesh, remembering that the tighter the mesh is, the more images taken. Set the time for the operations to start (in UT) and save the schedule file in the default directory. Then pop back out to the main Talon screen and select batch mode. You'll receive a confirmation window. When you select Yes, the Talon application slaves to auto mode. You can cancel auto mode from the main screen. You cannot, however, operate the telescope manually from the main screen while batch mode is in use.

The Talon program is rich with features, providing complete control over the operation of the telescope. Many of the finer features are outlined in the .pdf manual provided in the Talon .tgz file. It's worth a thorough read to understand the telescope interfaces to the control boards and to the software. The manual also contains in-depth information on image processing, solving for WCS solutions, automated and remote operations and finer calibration items that are beyond the scope of this article.

Talon represents a complete leap into the open-source world for astronomers, both professional and amateur. With the robust and networkable nature of Linux, Talon provides a stable platform from which we can do what we've been doing since the beginning of time—viewing, recording and discovering the heavens.

Tony Steidler-Dennison is the director of operations for Optical Mechanics, Inc., and the author of Lockergnome's Penguin Shell newsletter, a twice-weekly tome for Linux users. He maintains Talon on Sourceforge.net and the poli-tech blog “Frankly, I'd Rather Not” at www.steidler.net. He answers all e-mail sent to tony@steidler.net.

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Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

Anonymous's picture

I bought this issue on the news stand specifically for this article. What a disappointment to find the article was written a year ago and the software is no longer supported! I don't think I'll be buying this magazine again.

-Tom

Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

Anonymous's picture

So do I.

Thierry

KStars can control popular telescopes

Anonymous's picture

Most amateur astronomers use telescope from Meade and Celestron, the latest version of KStars (to be released in KDE 3.2 http://edu.kde.org/kstars) includes a support for such telescopes.

It seems that Talon is really great and professional, albeit it is limited to the Optical Mechanics and Oregen motion controllers.

For most of us amateur astronomers out there who own a Meade or a Celestron, KStars allow us to easily control the telescope.

Re: KStars can control popular telescopes

Anonymous's picture


Most amateur astronomers use telescope from Meade and Celestron

and what makes you think that?
I know a lot of amateur astronomers, and not a single one owns a meade or celestron telescope... because they just suck.
Way too pricey for what those things offer.

Re: KStars can control popular telescopes

Anonymous's picture

You're right, but the whole article is about Software Telescope Control. So maybe most amateur astronomers have Dobs or refractors, but the majority of those who have _computerized_ mounts that can be used along with a control software has Meade/Celestron.

Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

Anonymous's picture

Kstars, included in KDEGames, contains telescope control software.

http://edu.kde.org/kstars/

And the telescope control documentation:

http://docs.kde.org/en/HEAD/kdeedu/kstars/indi.html

KStars is being actively developed.

Derek

Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

Anonymous's picture

A small correction, KStars in included in the KDE Eduntainment package.

Maybe Linux Journal can review KStars when KDE 3.2 is out?

Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

Anonymous's picture

Interesting story, this.
The article was written nearly a year ago. Since that time the company, Optical Mechanics, Inc., has shifted its focus to high precision optics and away from telescopes. I, in the meatime, have gone to work for a presidential campaign in Little Rock, AR. The Talon project on sourceforge has, to say the least, languished.
As the result of the article, I've had several offers to help rebuild the project page and continue development on Talon. You can expect to see a new project page within the next week or so (as of December 7), and an initial release of Talon shortly thereafter. The software is available now via CVS on sourceforge.
It started strong, faded, and looks to soon be revived by the open source community. Keep an eye open.
Tony Steidler-Dennison

Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

Anonymous's picture

I'm in the proccess of building my observatory to house my 10" Meade. I would really like to use all of the capabilities of this software.

Another good piece of software is "The Sky" for Linux and "Satalite tracker". Both are easily found threw a "google" search.

Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

zedkatuf's picture

Hi Tony

I've just downloaded your first source release from the Sourceforge site...Like others on this list, the setup I'm using is an LX200, (with a Robodome arriving in the Fall, hopefully).

I'm interested in seeing something like Talon being used for my setup, as I'd like to run it all under Linux....I'll email you to chat further.

Regards,

Dez Futak.
zedkatuf@hotmail.com

Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for the info, Tony. I was able to find a page
for Talon on sourceforge at:

http://sourceforge.net/projects/observatory/

I too am very interested in seeing this project move
forward. I am building a robotic telescope and plan
on contributing to the community both the mechanical design of my mount and my coding efforts on a resurrected Talon project.

Tom Bartol

Talon Development

Fabian Lim's picture

Hi Tom,

Myself and my partner are currently working on compiling the Latest Talon Software and porting it at the University of Toronto's Observatory. We are both students from the University of Toronto and we are trying to standardize the code so that it would work on all LX200 telescopes on Linux Enterprise 3.0. We are currently facing problems compiling, and we would like to know how far you have gone with this code. Please let us know if you would be interested in working together.

Thanks,

Fabian Lim

Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

Anonymous's picture

Ilooked for this software, too. Not only is it missing from the claimed spot, it is not available from the optical company, nor is it even mentioned on the author's website. So, what gives? if it is a product, that fact should have been stated in the article. If it is freeware or shareware, that too should have been stated. I'm seriously disappointed, as I have a potenitial use for Talon. Too bad.
Don Latham

Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

Anonymous's picture

The source code for Tolon is located at "www.sourceforge.net". Just type Talon into there search window. I've downloaded it, unpacked it, and now trying to install it

Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

Anonymous's picture

The source code for Tolon is located at "www.sourceforge.net". I've downloaded it, unpacked it, and now trying to install it

Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

Anonymous's picture

Has anyone successfully downloaded this code? I was curious
enough to want to poke around at it a bit, but http://observatory.sourceforge.net/ is an empty directory, and the
sourceforge project at http://sourceforge.net/projects/observatory/
claims not to have released any files. Am I missing something?

Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

Anonymous's picture

The project is still there, and indeed the latest version is 0.85, Dec 29 2003. But it has moved - observatory.sourceforge.com is now an empty directory. The new URL is:

http://sourceforge.net/projects/observatory/

Re: Linux, Talon and Astronomy

Anonymous's picture

Interesting story, this.

The article was written nearly a year ago. Since that time the company, Optical Mechanics, Inc., has shifted its focus to high precision optics and away from telescopes. I, in the meatime, have gone to work for a presidential campaign in Little Rock, AR. The Talon project on sourceforge has, to say the least, languished.

As the result of the article, I've had several offers to help rebuild the project page and continue development on Talon. You can expect to see a new project page within the next week or so (as of December 7), and an initial release of Talon shortly thereafter. The software is available now via CVS on sourceforge.

It started strong, faded, and looks to soon be revived by the open source community. Keep an eye open.

Tony Steidler-Dennison

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