PIKA Observing Program
About PIKA
We run a Comet and Asteroid Search Program named PIKA after a Slovene acronym. The program is run by University of Ljubljana and Crni Vrh Observatory. It utilizes a 36-cm, f/6.7 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and Finger Lake 1k x 1k CCD detector, attached on the fully automated mounting.

The goal of the project is to scan larger areas of sky for several times on each clear night and search them for the presence of any transient objects. The PIKA imaging system is being operated in Linux and may be run either in-site or remotely over the Internet link. An observing schedule, containing field coordinates, exposure time and number of scans is prepared for each night in advance and sent to the main computer. The image acquisition, processing and searching for new objects is fully automated. Images are analyzed by the Fitsblink software, written by Jure Skvarc. At the end of observing session, the suspect objects are checked either locally or remotely over the data link.

Search strategy
Search regions consist of 15 fields which are calculated in advance. Each region is scanned three times during the night. Lists of objects are compared and asteroids are found on the basis of their motion. Suspected objects are visually examined with the Fitsblink program and immediately identified. New objects are followed-up on subsequent nights. The system is also used for the follow-up of NEO objects, posted on the MPC Confirmation Page.
Telescope control
Program tserver is used for the low level control of the telescope. It accepts high level commands from the client programs and transforms them into low level commands which are directly understood by the hardware: CCD camera and stepping motor controller. The advantage of this concept is that the client programs do not need to worry about the details of the hardware used and so the same programs can be used for the control of different telescopes, as is the case at Crni Vrh Observatory. Communication with the server is performed by the program called tx which simply sends command lines to the server and displays any answers that are received.
Information system
Automated sky imaging yields a huge amount of data. Two important problems were solved by now in the field of information processing. Rapid identification of asteroids is achieved by a use of the asteroid_server, a program which provides a link between FITS images and a Lowell asteroid database. After an asteroid is found, it can be identified by a simple click on a button of the Fitsblink program. Several client programs which access the asteroid database were also developed by J. Skvarc.

Each night of scanning adds hundreds of images to our database. All images are compressed and saved to CD-ROMs. Information about the image database is now accessible also through our web image archives. You can even plot the sky map of regions imaged by PIKA telescopes by using the MapSky online package.

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