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Boltwood Cloud/Rain Sensor

Posted by Marcus Thompson   04/06/2005 00:00:AM

Boltwood Cloud/Rain Sensor
[ARTICLEIMGR="1"]If you are an astronomer that does automated imaging, you know that some of the imaging sequences can take hours to complete. Somewhere in the back of your mind while you are sleeping you are worrying about clouds, rain and your expensive equipment. Well after my telescope got wet due to an unexpected passing rain. I purchased a Boltwood Cloud Sensor.

My sensor made the trip across the Canadian border nicely packaged, safe and sound. The software installed on my Windows XP system without a problem and was straightforward. I connected up the sensor inside the house before installing it on the roof and assigned it to COM port 4. I started the Clarify software, which is used to display information from the sensor. The software’s little red blinking box changed from red to green indicating my Boltwood sensor was alive and well. I pointed the sensor at the walls, ceiling and a cube of ice in order to confirm the unit’s IR sensor was working. The software also displayed the temperature of the room. I then sprayed a bit of water on the top of the sensor and low and behold the software reported it was raining.

For me the main selling feature of the Boltwood is it ability to be interfaced to an observatory’s shutters or roll-off roof in order to close it when it detected clouds or rain. It should also be noted that the Boltwood sensor does not require a computer in order for closure line to function. It will automatically close the observatory if it detects a “Very Cloudy” or Rain condition. If you dome’s roof or shutters are not motorized to can always connect the closure line to a audible alarm that would wake you if you were sleeping (although your spouse may not appreciate that).

I was also surprised to find out how well it detects light snow. The Clarify software will display “Snow” if the temperature is 32 Degrees F (0 degrees C) or below and precipitation is detected. For me this is the best thing since sliced bread and “Goto” scopes. I no longer have to worry about leaving the observatory’s shutters open.

Pros: It works and it works well.

Cons: It’s a bit on the expensive side ..(but worth it if you have the need for such a device). Also, the software doesn’t remember the alarms setting when restarted.

Wish List: Would like the clarify software to have to ability to upload it’s data to the net (useful for remote monitoring of the observatory).