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Building the Sonoma State University Robotic Telescope
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  1. Building the Sonoma State University Robotic Telescope Gordon G. Spear Department of Physics and Astronomy Sonoma State University

  2. I am here to represent... • Those people who want to build a robotic telescope • Those people who have a telescope and want to make it robotic • Those people who we want to participate in a scalable and sustainable automated telescope network

  3. What is a robotic telescope? • A robotic telescope consists of a computer controlled telescope and CCD camera with an integrated control system. • A robotic telescope must be scriptable so that a sequence of observations can be automated.

  4. Scriptable telescope mount • Point to arbitrary RA and DEC to within a few arcminutes. • Track to within a few arcseconds for up to several minutes. • Avoid wrapping cables around mount. • Successfully move through “trouble spots” on the sky. • meridian, zenith, pole • Know the horizon limits for the mount. • Always capable of moving to a safe home position.

  5. Scriptable CCD camera • Control camera settings • including exposure time • including camera temperature • Control position of filter wheel • Save images for later recovery • Take dark frames • Take flat field frames

  6. Further capabilities required for a robotic telescope system • Power on/off • Open/close roof and/or adjust dome • Verify focus • Synchronize telescope with sky • Verify field and/or adjust telescope pointing • Generate log of all saved images

  7. Proposed categories for robotic telescopes • Manual Telescope (MT) • Computer Controlled Telescope (CT) • Robotic Telescope (RT) • manual mode (RT-M) • remote accessibility (RT-R) • real time interactivity (RT-I) • autonomous (RT-A)

  8. Some established robotic telescope systems • The Bradford Telescope • The University of Iowa Telescope • The Fairborn Observatory • The Hanna City Robotic Observatory • The URSA System (under construction)

  9. The Fairborn Telescope Farm

  10. The Hanna City Robotic Observatory

  11. URSAUndergraduate Research Studies in Astronomy • An example of a robotic system that has been built from scratch • Claud Lacy, University of Arkansas

  12. The URSA welcome screen • The URSA observation request page • The URSAobserving model • • Active testing will begin fall 2001. Routine use by students will begin sometime in 2002.

  13. How can I get one of these cool robotic telescope systems?

  14. A Robotic Telescopic Model The Web Telescope ?

  15. What should the ideal robotic telescope model provide? • Control for telescopes, CCD cameras, and other instrumentation that is scriptable. ASCOM is an excellent example. • A universal web interface that is easy to use and to understand. RTML is an excellent example. • A central engine for accepting requests, establishing priorities, scheduling observations, archiving data, and advising users of completed observations.

  16. ? CAMERA data observing list camera commands observing log Central Controller telescope commands DATA to happy observer data archive TELESCOPE

  17. What are the available options for building a robotic telescope? • Hire a commercial engineering firm. • Purchase an off-the-shelf system. • Upgrade an existing system using interoperable components. • Build a new system independently from scratch.

  18. Some possible commercial sources for robotic telescopes • Optical Guidance Systems (OGS) • Software Bisque • Meade (?) • Celestron (??)

  19. Possible resources for building robotic telescopes • Software Bisque • Comsoft (PC-TCS) • DC-3 Dreams (Astronomer’s Control Program) • ASCOM • ATIS • Jeff Medkiff’s robotic astronomy site • RTML • The Robotic Telescope Resource Site at SSUO • this conference

  20. The SSU Observatory and its Telescopes So, where is the SSU observatory anyway?

  21. The Epoch Telescope

  22. The ST-7 CCD camera on the Epoch telescope

  23. Close-up of the ST-7

  24. The C14 telescope ...and some computers

  25. In the command seatfor the Epoch telescope... This is currently where the “robot” that makes everything happen must sit.

  26. Science at SSUO • Active Galactic Nuclei (AGNs) • Eclipsing Binaries (EBs) • Galactic Anti-Center Variable Star Survey (GACVSS) • Photometric Detection/Confirmation of Extrasolar Planets

  27. The Epoch Telescope at SSU • 10-inch f/5 Newtonian • Fork mount with DC servo motors • Friction roller drive • Up to 60 watts per axis • Slew speed about 6° per second • Points to within 1-3 minutes of arc • Tracks unguided for up to 5 minutes

  28. The Epoch Telescope Software • Servostar • Runs under DOS • Convenient user interface screen • Internal database plus planets • Enter RA and DEC • Resync, Slew, Guide, etc. • Drivers available for UNIX • Source code currently unavailable!

  29. The future of Epoch…(Information provided by Kevin Medlock.) • Servostar is about to be rewritten for Windows. • The code will be made available as open source. • The designs for the servo motor controller boards will be made freely available. • Upgraded versions of the controller boards for up to 200 watts per axis will also be available. • Controller boards will be available for purchase at modest cost. • The future looks bright!

  30. All we need now is the money and we will build one of those cool robotic telescope systems!

  31. More Information An online version of this presentation plus more detailed information is available from the Robotic Telescope Resource Resource Site. This website contains URLs and direct links to all the resources mentioned in this presentation. This website will be maintained to reflect current developments for robotic telescope systems.