AAS 202nd Meeting, May 2003
Session 38 Robotic Astronomical Observatories
Topical Oral, Wednesday, May 28, 2003, 8:30-10:00am and 10:45am-12:30pm, 209/210

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[38.13] TTL robotic telescopes and Robonet: new possibilities for robotic astronomical observatories

C. Moss (Telescope Technologies Limited, Liverpool John Moores University.)

Five TTL (Telescope Technologies Limited, Liverpool J.M. University, U.K.) telescopes, ranging in size from 2m to 2.4m are currently being manufactured and installed at sites worldwide (Hawaii; La Palma; India; China; Australia). These telescopes have been designed to work robotically, i.e. the telescopes will not be supervised either locally or remotely during routine observations.

Observation requests from many observers authorised by multiple allocation committees are stored in the telescope database. Actual observations are scheduled using a version of a `dispatch' scheduler which decides in real time the best observation to perform next on the basis of the current telescope state and observing conditions, subject to fairness and efficiency criteria. In this way observations can be matched to local conditions, and rapid response to targets of opportunity is possible. The robotic software includes telescope run-up and run-down, focussing tests, monitoring of observing conditions for optimum scheduling of observations, automated observation of photometric standards and pipeline data reduction.

The developing global network of TTL telescopes (`Robonet') is uniquely well suited to a vast range of scientific programs in time domain astrophysics, such as the discovery of Earth-size planets using gravitational lensing, astro-tomography with a resolution of one millionth of an arc second, and continuous 24-hour monitoring of variable objects. Also, uniquely, telescope time may be readily `traded' on the network to enable a single telescope to become effectively a global distributed Observatory, facilitating observations in both northern and southern hemispheres and on a much wider set of instrumentation than is easily available for a single telescope.

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