AAS 196th Meeting, June 2000
Session 9. Automated Telescopes
Display, Monday, June 5, 2000, 9:20am-6:30pm, Empire Hall South

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[9.01] Networked Automatic Optical Telescopes

J.R. Mattox (Boston Univ.)

Many groups around the world are developing automated or robotic optical observatories. The coordinated operation of automated optical telescopes at diverse sites could provide observing prospects which are not otherwise available, e.g., continuous optical photometry without diurnal interruption. Computer control and scheduling also offers the prospect of effective response to transient events such as \gamma-ray bursts. These telescopes could also serve science education by providing high-quality CCD data for educators and students. The Automatic Telescope Network (ATN) project has been undertaken to promote networking of automated telescopes. A web site is maintained at http://gamma.bu.edu/atn/. The development of such networks will be facilitated by the existence of standards. A set of standard commands for instrument and telescope control systems will allow for the creation of software for an ``observatory control system'' which can be used at any facility which complies with the TCS and ICS standards. Also, there is a strong need for standards for the specification of observations to be done, and reports on the results and status of observations. A proposed standard for this is the Remote Telescope Markup Language (RTML), which is expected to be described in another poster in this session. It may thus be feasible for amateur-astronomers to soon buy all necessary equipment and software to field an automatic telescope. The owner/operator could make otherwise unused telescope time available to the network in exchange for the utilization of other telescopes in the network --- including occasional utilization of meter-class telescopes with research-grade CCD detectors at good sites.

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