The Arizona Robotic Telescope Network (ARTN) project is a long term effort to develop a system of telescopes to carry out a flexible program of PI observing, survey projects, and time domain astrophysics including monitoring, rapid response, and transient/target-of-opportunity followup. Steward Observatory operates and shares in several 1-3m class telescopes with quality sites and instrumentation, largely operated in classical modes. Science programs suited to these telescopes are limited by scheduling flexibility and people-power of available observers. Our goal is to adapt these facilities for multiple co-existing queued programs, interrupt capability, remote/robotic operation, and delivery of reduced data. In the long term, planning for the LSST era, we envision an automated system coordinating across multiple telescopes and sites, where alerts can trigger followup, classification, and triggering of further observations if required, such as followup imaging that can trigger spectroscopy. We are updating telescope control systems and software to implement this system in stages, beginning with the Kuiper 61” and Vatican Observatory 1.8-m telescopes. The Kuiper 61” and its Mont4K camera can now be controlled and queue-scheduled by the RTS2 observatory control software, and operated from a remote room at Steward. We discuss science and technical requirements for ARTN, and some of the challenges in adapting heterogenous legacy facilities, scheduling, data pipelines, and maintaining capabilities for a diverse user base.
Limited observing time at large telescopes equipped with the most powerful spectrographs makes it almost impossible to gain long and well-sampled time-series observations. Ditto, high-time-resolution observations of bright targets with high signal-to-noise are rare. By pulling an optical fibre of 450m length from the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) to the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) to connect the Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) to the VATT, allows for ultra-high resolution time-series measurements of bright targets. This article presents the fibre-link in detail from the technical point-of-view, demonstrates its performance from first observations, and sketches current applications.
Education and public engagement (EPE) is an essential part of astronomy’s mission. New technologies, remote observing and robotic facilities are opening new possibilities for EPE. A number of projects (e.g., Telescopes In Education, MicroObservatory, Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope and UNC’s Skynet) have developed new infrastructure, a number of observatories (e.g., University of Arizona’s “full-engagement initiative” towards its astronomy majors, Vatican Observatory’s collaboration with high-schools) have dedicated their resources to practical instruction and EPE. Some of the facilities are purpose built, others are legacy telescopes upgraded for remote or automated observing. Networking among institutions is most beneficial for EPE, and its implementation ranges from informal agreements between colleagues to advanced software packages with web interfaces. The deliverables range from reduced data to time and hands-on instruction while operating a telescope. EPE represents a set of tasks and challenges which is distinct from research applications of the new astronomical facilities and operation modes. In this paper we examine the experience with several EPE projects, and some lessons and challenges for observatory operation.
We describe a complex process needed to turn an existing, old, operational observatory - The Steward Observatory’s 61” Kuiper Telescope - into a fully autonomous system, which observers without an observer. For this purpose, we employed RTS2,1 an open sourced, Linux based observatory control system, together with other open sourced programs and tools (GNU compilers, Python language for scripting, JQuery UI for Web user interface). This presentation provides a guide with time estimates needed for a newcomers to the field to handle such challenging tasks, as fully autonomous observatory operations.
The NULLTIMATE project developed and realized three concepts of achromatic phase shifters for nulling interferometry.
One of the concepts is based on dispersive plates made of three materials which where fully
characterized regarding their refractive index and thermo-optic behavior between 100K and 330 K. The other
two concepts are based on mirror optics, one of which uses the phase shift of π when crossing a focus, the
other the reversal of electric fields at reflection. An optical bench has been set up to test and characterize these
phase shifters at wavelengths 2 − 2.4 μm with the option of changing to the 10 μm domain. We summarize the
development of the achromatic phase shifters and report on the current status of the test bench.
Nulling interferometry has been suggested as the underlying principle for an instrument which could provide direct detection
and spectroscopy of Earth-like exo-planets, including searches for potential bio-signatures. This paper documents
the potential of optical path difference (OPD) stabilisation with dithering methods for improving the mean nulling ratio
and its stability. The basic dithering algorithm, its refined versions and parameter tuning, are reviewed. This paper takes
up the recently presented results1 and provides an update on OPD-stabilisation at significantly higher levels of nulling
The achromatic phase shifter (APS) is a component of the Bracewell nulling interferometer studied in preparation
for future space missions (viz. Darwin/TPF-I) focusing on spectroscopic study of Earth-like exo-planets. Several
possible designs of such an optical subsystem exist. Four approaches were selected for further study. Thales
Alenia Space developed a dielectric prism APS. A focus crossing APS prototype was developed by the OCA,
Nice, France. A field reversal APS prototype was prepared by the MPIA in Heidelberg, Germany. Centre Spatial
de Liege develops a concept based on Fresnel's rhombs. This paper presents a progress report on the current
work aiming at evaluating these prototypes on the Synapse test bench at the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale
in Orsay, France.