AAS 200th meeting, Albuquerque, NM, June 2002
Session 64. New Developments in Ground Based Instrumentation
Display, Wednesday, June 5, 2002, 10:00am-7:00pm, SW Exhibit Hall

[Previous] | [Session 64] | [Next]

[64.10] A Characterization Of The GNAT SciTech STAR Class 0.5m Prototype Telescope

J.C. Barentine, R.B. Culver (CSU/GNAT)

In 1995 the Global Network of Automated Telescopes (GNAT) acquired an option to purchase a 0.5m "STAR" class telescope, manufactured by SciTech Corporation of Forresthill, CA, contingent upon its attainment of performance specifications published by SciTech. In spite of a concerted, and protracted effort, the telescope has not yet approached the manufacturer's specifications, and has proven largely unusable for its intended purpose. In light of the difficult history of commercial development of true automated telescopes (see Sinnott 1996 and Henry 1994) it is important to understand the current state of such commercial systems. We present results of a characterization of this telescope and recommendations for how to proceed in light of its failure to attain specifications. Principle failings of the telescope can be summarized as follows: 1) the mechanical structure was inadequately designed and built, yielding large and unacceptable pointing and tracking errors, 2) the autoguider system was never successfully implemented, limiting the system to very short integrations, 3) the autofocus mechanism was never successfully implemented, resulting in periodic, unacceptable focus drifts during automatic operation, 4) the telescope control system as provided with the telescope did not work and ultimately had to be developed by an independent contractor recommended by GNAT and contracted through SciTech, and 5) the telescope optical system design did not adequately accommodate scattered light issues, yielding significant scattered light contributions to the images under certain conditions. Based on analyses of these issues, we present recommendations for improvements in this system.

Support of this work has been provided by Colorado State University and GNAT.


Sinnott, R.W. Sky And Telescope vol.91, no.6, p.38 (1996)

Henry, G.W. IAPPP Communication No.57, Autumn 1994, p.57

[Previous] | [Session 64] | [Next]

Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 34
© 2002. The American Astronomical Soceity.