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Maxon Motor Supplies Drives for Telescope Mounts to suit Antarctic Temperatures

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article image Dome C Telescope Mount Features Maxon Motor

Maxon Motor drives are being used for telescope mounts installed at a research station in Antarctica in temperatures of -125ºC.  

The Concordia Station, known as Dome C research station is located in Eastern Antarctica at 3,200m above sea level in one of the coldest places on Earth.  

A telescope of the University of Nice's Astrophysics Laboratory (LUAN) has been in constant 24/7 use for years in an inhospitable environment, under some of the toughest weather conditions on the planet.  

The Dome C telescope is mounted on a motorised base (type 3600GTO) produced by the US company, Astro-Physics. The company develops and produces high-precision telescope mounts and has wide experience in all kinds of application areas.  

Various telescope mounts from the 900GTO and 1200GTO ranges have been in constant use in the Antarctic since the beginning of 2000.  

Since the heavy telescope mount weighing around 250kg must be continuously manoeuvred smoothly so that the telescope can give a completely consistent view of a particular object in the sky, it must be motorised accordingly to prevent objects from disappearing from the telescope's field of vision.  

The trouble-free design of the mount is particularly significant in an environment where maintenance work is extremely difficult and very dangerous to set up.  

Wally Piorkwoski, Head of Production at Astro-Physics and himself a scientist says that they only use drives by Maxon Motor for all their telescope mounts because of high reliability and longevity.  

The lubricant used in the bearings is ideally geared towards the extreme temperatures experienced at Dome C in the Antarctic.  

The motors also have coreless windings and Neodymium magnets to help deliver maximum performance in a compact construction volume.  

Graphite or precious metal brushes are used for the motors’ mechanical commutation. Their linear characteristics make them very easy to implement in telescope mounts.  

Every mount has two axes including a right ascension axis that is set up parallel to the Earth's axis and allows the telescope to move across the Earth's equator while the second axis known as the declination axis is arranged at right-angles to the right ascension axis and manoeuvres the telescope intermittently at the object’s angular distance to the celestial equator.  

The reduction gearing was developed in-house by Astro-Physics. The motors of both axes are fitted with 3-channel encoders type HEDS 5540.  

Orientation in any required direction is possible as the axes are offset at 90º to each other.  

Wally says they use Maxon A-max motor for their smaller mounts and Maxon RE 25 motors for telescope mounts as used in Dome C.  

RE 25 motors offer maximum torque and power density in its class in addition to zero magnetic detent.  

Detent is described as the jerky, sudden movement that typically occurs with most iron-core motors.  

Maxon motors feature an ironless core, which enables then to run detent-free even at extremely low speeds, a basic requirement in a telescope mount.  

Wally explains that mounts are often bought separately from the telescopic equipment by astronomical associations, colleges and institutes.  

Astro-Physics' telescope mounts 3600GTO and 3600GTOPE are used in many private homes, universities, research institutes, educational establishments, astronomical associations, joint organisations or solar technology companies.   

Maxon Motor Australia is the Australian operation of Maxon Motor, a leading global supplier of high-precision drive systems.

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