The Anza WeatherCAM is back!
Posted On July 5, 2001
Quite a while ago a project was put in place to install a weather station and all-sky camera out at our Anza site. The intention was to build a system that would reliably report the local weather conditions out at our Anza site. All of us would then have the ability to determine if it would make sense to spend 2 hours in the car to go to Anza.
The weatherstation hardware along with the all sky camera were installed by Michael Silveus in 1998. The computer system we had then however turned out to be less than reliable. For many reasons it seemed as if the computer would last just a few hours before it would crash and lock up.
A few weeks ago I decided to have a personal attempt at getting this project back off the ground. The first part I wanted to tackle was that of getting the all-sky camera working.
I decided to use a personal computer of mine - a Toshiba Server grade computer - hoping that with Windows 2000 - it might end up being a little more reliable than the previous system.
On the June star party weekend I spent all day configuring and testing the server at home. I rushed down to Anza and arrived just before sunset. I had just enough time to hook up the PC and verify that the camera was still functioning (a credit to Michael Silveus engineering).
I left the system running for the following week. The server was basically taking a snapshot image every 15 minutes and then uploading them to an Internet server. I monitored the output all week - and the system never missed a beat.
One of the first images uploaded is displayed below.
The SkyCam is based upon a B&W camera pointing down at a half-sphere-mirror, effectively allowing us to view the entire sky from east/west/north/south.
Not having seen an image from the camera before - I didn't really know what I was looking at. The big bright white "clouds" looked to be a little odd to me. In fact I guessed they were actually little "messages" from the Birds over the past few years. I also had no idea what the black "rectangles" were in the image.
I asked Michael Silveus to look at the images and to let me know if it looked basically OK. The black rectangles were a mystery to him.
I decided to go back down to Anza the weekend after the star-party to clean up the mirror and to check out what the black rectangles were. I successfully cleaned the mirror - and verified what those rectangles were. Inside the camera weatherproof housing I could see the rectangles of "something" resting on the inside of the filter. Unfortunately I could not remove them - as that would have required completely dismantling the camera and I did not have the proper tools to do that. I managed to tap the camera and some of the rectangles moved out of the way. I also took some time to install some nails on the top of the camera structure that will hopefully persuade the birds not to leave their mess on the unit. The following image shows the WeatherCAM in detail.
The first images from the newly cleaned system looked much better!
As of now then I have re-implemented the Anza WeatherCAM system. It is now taking images every 20 minutes - and the latest image is always available along with the previous 9 hours or so of historical images. I will eventually remove that black rectangle for the camera - but for now I think I just want to leave it as it is. Hopefully it will not prove to be too much of a problem.
Over the next couple of months - I will look at getting the weatherstation working. In the meantime you can view the real-time weather conditions as reported by a weather monitoring station in the town of Anza about 6 miles away from our site. This information is available here.