DFM Engineering, Inc.
1035 Delaware Ave. Unit D
Longmont, CO 80501
Phone: 303-678-8143
Fax: 303-772-9411

"Congratulations for a job well done!"

University of Montreal - Mt. Megantic Observatory -Telescope Control System Installation


Départernent de Physique
Université de Montréal
C.P. 6128, Succ. Centre-ville
Montréal, Québec
Canada H3C 3J7
(514) 343-6111 (ext. 3195)

July 9, 2002



Dr. Frank Melsheimer
DFM Engineering, Inc.
1035 Delaware Avenue, Unit D
Longmont, Colorado 80501

Dear Frank,

      It has been a little over a year since DFM retrofitted our 1.6m telescope here at mont Mégantic and I want to let you know how much we are pleased with the result.

     Our 25 year-old Perkin Elmer telescope had been performing rather well under extreme climatic conditions (from -30°C in January to +30°C in July) but some of its mechanical parts were starting to show signs of wear in recent years. The ‘manual’ TCS-Sky console was also becoming less reliable and replacement parts for its electronics were almost impossible to find. This resulted in observing time losses at the telescope for our students and staff. Based on my observing experiences at CTIO and MDM, where I became familiar with your company’s work, I strongly suggested to the observatory’s scientific board that DFM be contracted for a major upgrade of our telescope. Let me tell you that we are very glad we did!

     Right from the start, every aspect of the retrofit was handled smoothly and professionally - from Mark Kelley’s initial visit to the observatory in January 2000, to the actual retrofit in May 2001, and the one-year follow-up service to iron out the very few minor problems we encountered. I was particularly impressed with Mark Kelley’s and Ian Huss’ skillful ‘operation’ on our ‘patient’. Within a week, major mechanical and electronic components were replaced with modern sturdy parts. New motors and encoders were installed on all three axes (RA, Dec, and focus), the instrument rotator was also motorized and encoded, and a new computer controlled TCS-Sky system was installed. All in all, the telescope was down for 5 days (nights) only, of which the last two were used to refine the pointing model.

     For the last 14 months we have been able to appreciate the benefits of DFM’s fine work. The telescope absolute pointing has improved with an overall accuracy better than 10 arc seconds. The telescope tracking is smoother than before, in fact, our autoguider does not have to work as much as before; typical PSF of stars on unguided 20 minutes exposures are about 2-3 arcsec. Finally, the TCS system is fast and easy to use. The net result of this upgrade is a 10-15% gain in efficiency of the telescope observing time. Given that we get about 120 clear nights a year at our observatory (typical climate for northeast america), it’s like getting an extra 15 clear nights every year - time enough to complete one or two more scientific projects. That’s a real bonus!

     From the astronomers, the students, the night assistants, and myself, congratulations for a job well done! It has been a pleasure doing business with you (and we hope to do some more in the future).

Best Regards,
Robert Lamontagne
Resident astronomer
Observatoire du mont Mégantic
Université de Montréal




Mt. Megantic Installation details