"The South African Astronomical Observatory is pleased to collaborate with the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope project, and we are excited by the prospects for both scientific observations and public outreach activities," Ted Williams, Director of SAAO said.
Las Cumbres Observatory site at SAAO
Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) has installed four other identical 1-meter telescopes to date: an operational prototype at McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas (April 2012), and a full science node of three telescopes at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) (October 2012).
Annie Hjelstrom, the project engineer responsible for the successful installation, pointed out that, "We had a great installation team, and SAAO and SALT staff were very helpful, but this is also the culmination of eight years of design and development. Each telescope is built, configured, tested, and then dismantled at the Goleta, California headquarters before we put them back together on site."
Usually first light images are fairly dry, and several such images were taken at each of the three telescopes. But for the SAAO node, LCOGT founder and lead engineer Wayne Rosing asked former company intern and accomplished astrophotographer B. J. Fulton to acquire images from three different galaxies using the stripped-down capabilities available during the early engineering phases. Fulton, who is now an astronomy graduate student with the University of Hawaii, produced the images over the first few days of telescope operations.
Edward Gomez, Education and Outreach Director of LCOGT, wrote that Fulton "kept the integrity of a first-light image by not touching up the images in any way." The images were created using command-line tools that work directly on the raw pixel data (e.g., Python, Stiff and ImageMagick). The images do not have flat-fields, darks or biases subtracted. They each combine multiple wavelengths and colors from the use of different filters on the telescope instrument.
For example, the images of M104 and M83 each required over 3 hours of exposure time distributed across two Bessel filters with additional exposures using two Sloan filters. For Trumpler 14, Fulton, took over 2 hours of images spread across three Sloan filters. He was able to conduct his observations from Hawaii, while the engineering team in Santa Barbara conducted their tests and the installation team in South Africa completed system tuning and optical collimation steps.
The installation team consisted of Hjelstrom, technicians Mark Crellin from the Birkenhead, England office, Kurt Vander Horst and David Petry from the Goleta office, and astronomy postdoctoral scholar, Abiy Tekola, based at SAAO in Capetown. The telescopes arrived on site on February 18th and were craned into the domes the next day. The telescope in Dome A was assembled with electrical, mirrors, optical tube assembly, and instrument by the end of February 20th, and the telescope went on-sky that night to begin TPOINT runs to set the telescope's polar alignment. The second and third telescopes followed over the next two days.
The trio of telescopes brings the company's total of operational 1-meter telescopes to seven. Two more are planned for mid-May at the Siding Spring Observatory to complete the southern ring, and a second telescope will be installed at McDonald Observatory at roughly year-end to create the first northern node.
A Global Telescope
LCOGT is a private, nonprofit science institute engaged in time domain astrophysics. The LCOGT Science team, led by Science Director Tim Brown, has published extensively on exoplanets, supernovae, and minor planet research, among other research areas. The organization operates the two 2-meter Faulkes Telescopes for which initial capital and operational funding was provided by The Dill Faulkes Educational Trust. LCOGT is now in the process of deploying a global network of 1-meter telescopes.
According to Brown, “The 1-meter telescope network adds a critical astronomical resource. Because the network will span both hemispheres, and because one or more LCOGT nodes will always be in the dark, astronomers can observe from anywhere on earth at nearly any time. Also, these telescopes - robotic, responsive, and numerous - will allow massive but carefully-directed observing campaigns that could never be done before."
About a third of the network science time in the southern hemisphere is dedicated to the astronomy program of the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance, of which St. Andrews University is a member. St. Andrews has worked with LCOGT over the last seven years on an exoplanet identification and characterization program using the Faulkes Telescopes and is expanding that program onto the larger LCOGT network.
LCOGT also has a science partnership with SAAO. SAAO astronomers will be using the telescopes for their science programs within the next couple of months. Tekola points out that SAAO also plans to use part of their share of network time for education and outreach in South Africa and other African countries.
As the LCOGT network expands the organization will make significant amounts of observing time available for educational projects, in addition to the substantial amount of time which will be available for professional scientists. LCOGT works with groups of education and scientific professionals to develop wide reaching partnerships for scientific research, public engagement and citizen science. Successful LCOGT education programs exist in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Additional science and education partnerships are available.
“We're very much looking forward to getting the 1-meter network commissioned for science,” LCOGT staff astronomer Rachel Street said. “These telescopes are ideal for the exoplanet characterization, supernovae follow-up and solar system studies our teams specialize in.”
David Petry | EurekAlert!
High-Power Laser Spinoff Proves Versatility Is Strength
20.04.2015 | University of Wisconsin-Madison
STAR Heavy Flavor Tracker Detects Signs of Charm at RHIC
20.04.2015 | Department of Energy, Office of Science
Max Planck researcher Buhalqem Mamtimin determines how much nitrogen oxide is released into the atmosphere from agriculturally used oases.
In order to make statements about current and future air pollution, scientists use models which simulate the Earth’s atmosphere. A lot of information such as...
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and the University of Konstanz are working on storing and processing information on the level of single molecules to create the smallest possible components that will combine autonomously to form a circuit. As recently reported in the academic journal Advanced Science, the researchers can switch on the current flow through a single molecule for the first time with the help of light.
Dr. Artur Erbe, physicist at the HZDR, is convinced that in the future molecular electronics will open the door for novel and increasingly smaller – while also...
Cells of the vascular system of vertebrates can fuse with themselves. This process, which occurs when a blood vessel is no longer necessary and pruned, has now been described on the cellular level by Prof. Markus Affolter from the Biozentrum of the University of Basel. The findings of this study have been published in the journal “PLoS Biology”.
The vascular system is the supply network of the human organism and delivers oxygen and nutrients to the last corners of the body. So far, research on the...
Astronomers from Chalmers University of Technology have used the giant telescope Alma to reveal an extremely powerful magnetic field very close to a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy
Astronomers from Chalmers University of Technology have used the giant telescope Alma to reveal an extremely powerful magnetic field very close to a...
A team of physicists from MPQ, Caltech, and ICFO proposes the combination of nano-photonics with ultracold atoms for simulating quantum many-body systems and creating new states of matter.
Ultracold atoms in the so-called optical lattices, that are generated by crosswise superposition of laser beams, have been proven to be one of the most...
13.04.2015 | Event News
25.03.2015 | Event News
19.03.2015 | Event News
21.04.2015 | Materials Sciences
21.04.2015 | Earth Sciences
21.04.2015 | Studies and Analyses