Considerable progress has been made toward the goals of the project over the last semester, but as with many things not as much as was planned. The plan is still to field a very workable system by the end of 1997.
Additional day and nighttime sky tests have been made. The major successes are implementation of an autoguider using a Data Translation VME frame grabber board, and verification of virtual guide telescope pointing and coordinated offsets. We had a number of setbacks when bad daytime observing conditions forced postponement of many necessary tests.
During this period two computational errors sneaked into the system's astrometric and pointing calculations, and when we finally got on the sky it couldn't find anything. This led to a thorough checkout, and an ironclad test system utilizing verification against original pointing test data. On the last test day stars were easily found.
Work is also proceeding on the initial prototypes of the user interface. The initial main observing screen is nearing completion, along with some other forms for guider control and catalog search. Several consultations with the Observing Assistants have helped plan the approach. Presently the planned semi-automated observing sequences are being added to the system.
The planned commercial database product, Recital, which was to be used for star catalogs and user object catalogs, and the observing log, turned out to be a big disappointment. We are still working with it, but are examining other solutions for these areas. So far the system is without a star catalog, and this greatly reduces its usefulness for any but the most rudimentary observing scenarios.
An addition success for the system has been the implementation of an interface link with the Data Acquisition system. A test was performed to check operation with AOB guider data. The system has also been tested with a partial Visitor Instrument link to MONICA. We are eager to test these features in a realistic observing environment, as this is a crucial step to accepting the system for use on the sky.