Clear Sky Institute was founded in 1993 to undertake the pioneering effort of completely automating a remote observatory at the University of Iowa, which came to be known as the Iowa Robotic Telescope. The principle investigator of that effort was Dr. Robert Mutel. The effort was resoundingly successful, allowing hundreds of students per semester to efficiently utilize one and later two telescopes, one located over 1,000 miles away, in a completely automated fashion. Click here for an interview with Dr Mutel relating his experience with the project. The work was developed with NASA and NSF funding and the developmental results of that effort remain freely available here.

The Institute was incorporated in November of 1997 to bring the results of that effort to a wider audience as a bona fide industrial-strength turn-key solution named OCAAS (Observatory Control and Astronomical Analysis System). CSI continued to refine and enhance this effort with its own resources and packaged the software with full support and installation consultation. CSI gradually broadened its services to include motion control electronics. In November 1999, CSI sold this controller and OCAAS to Torus Technologies, now known as Optical Mechanics. They since renamed OCAAS to Talon and made it open source. Some additional links to Talon are here and here.

With this sale CSI returned to its original focus of astronomical engineering consulting, as well as continually improving the perennial favorite XEphem. CSI has talented mechanical, electronics and software people who share a keen interest in astronomical instrumentation projects of all kinds.

The president and founder of CSI is Elwood C. Downey. Mr. Downey has pursued his passion for astronomical software since his days as a programmer at Kitt Peak in the early 80s. He continues to be active in the telescope control industry.

CSI has performed a complete rewrite of OCAAS that uses the INDI XML-based messaging protocol and Java GUIs for improved portability. If you would like more information about the next generation of OCAAS or about our consulting services please contact us at ecdowney@clearskyinstitute.com .