New Instruments for the „Bruno H. Bürgel“ Observatory in Sohland

The "Bruno H. Bürgel" Observatory in Sohland, Germany was built by two amateur astronomers in the 1950s. It is named after a "worker-astronomer" who proved nearly a hundred years ago that a formal education is not necessarily required to conduct scientific work and achieve success. Today, the observatory is still operated by a society of dedicated amateur astronomers who take great joy in sharing their passion for astronomy with both young and old during guided tours. They also emphasize personal, hands-on experience, particularly in astrophotography, under the dark skies of Lusatia. As a result, there has long been a desire to acquire a modern telescope setup that can also be controlled via the internet and from the observatory's lecture hall.


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The observatory has three domes, one of which is more recent and intended to house a remote telescope. In February 2022, we received a request to configure and provide the optimal equipment for this purpose. The request included an Alluna telescope with an appropriate mount, camera, and accessories. At first glance, this sounds simple—a telescope, a mount, a camera—yet it is often underestimated how many details must be considered in advance when setting up an observatory. For instance, the placement and height of the column and mount, as well as the space requirements to ensure the instruments can move safely within the dome. Electronic, mechanical, and software components must be considered in terms of their connections and interfaces, and much more, to ensure everything works smoothly, permanently, and safely in the future. Our consultants and installation teams rely on many years of personal experience in their proposals and discussions with the customer to ensure all these aspects and more are addressed. Only then is a plan made and a proposal drawn up. This proposal was submitted to the observatory's sponsors, and we were delighted when it was accepted in June 2022.

Before the first observation with the new remote telescope could take place, there was unfortunately a delay: the desired high-end equipment was not available from stock. In particular, the Alluna telescope had a longer lead time due to limited production capacity and high demand, so the installation date could only be realized in September 2023. However, everything then proceeded quite quickly. As soon as the equipment arrived here, our installation team performed an "integration." This process involves assembling all components, namely the mount, telescope, camera, and computer, connecting them, and testing them directly under the night sky. Only when everything functions flawlessly is the complete system packed for transport and shipped to the customer or delivered by us by truck, as in this case. Thanks to the perfect preparation by the observatory and our installation team, it took only one day to set up the GM 3000 mount with an Alluna 16" RC-Astrograph, fully assembled and wired with our pre-configured "Observatory Management System" (OMS). This system is a pre-configured, high-performance industrial computer with all necessary network components (switches, connections), all executed to industrial standards, along with all necessary power supplies and fuses, housed in a stainless steel cabinet. While more expensive than a laptop or a PC from an electronics store, its price is justified by its future-proofing, increased reliability, and durability.

Since the entire software of the OMS was installed and configured during factory integration and tested with the complete system, it was easy to operate the observatory on the first night. A polar alignment of the 10Micron GM 3000 HPS followed by a multi-star alignment was completed in about an hour, after which the first endurance test took place: A multi-minute exposure with the QHY 600 camera, without guiding and without tracking errors! Encouraged by this success, the first deep-sky object was remotely targeted and exposed from the lecture hall, also successfully. Several more tests and exposures demonstrated the performance of this new installation.

With these modern devices, the Sohland Observatory is now ready for the future, which is expected to bring a surge of visitors and new horizons in astrophotography. In February 2022, it was decided to establish a new major research center, the "German Research Center for Astrophysics," nearby. Discussions are also currently underway to build the next large gravitational wave telescope (the "Einstein Telescope") in Lusatia. The region is thus becoming an internationally important site for astronomical research—with the small, yet exquisite, amateur observatory of Sohland right in the middle of it.

This article was written by Michael Risch, with support from the Sohland Observatory.


About the author: Michael Risch

Michael Risch

Michael has been interested in astronomy and spaceflight, since he saw the last moon landing as a child. In 1981, he became a member of the Association of Amateur Astronomers in the Saarland and, as a member of the board, accompanied the establishment of the Peterberg Observatory. As co-founder and first webmaster of www.astronomie.de, he contributed numerous ideas and reports on astronomical and spaceflight topics to the first German astronomy portal. He has been practicing planetary, comets, solar, deep sky as well as TWAN style photography, and has been on many long distance trips, among others to 7 total solar eclipses. As a long-time science editor, he has led "Northern lights and stars" trips to the Arctic Circle. Michael has published many of his own photos and articles in professional journals and has written chapters for the books chapters for the books Fotoschule (Photo School) and Extremfotografie (Extreme Photography) with his colleague Martin Rietze for "Color Foto".

At Baader-Planetarium he is part of the observatory project team and is booked for lectures in Germany and abroad. Furthermore, he is an expert consultant for observatories, domes, high end mounts, telescopes and much more.


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