LCO works with NASA and the International Space Station in Black Hole Discovery

Image: Artist’s conception of an accretion disk of material flowing around a supermassive black hole, launching a jet of energetic particles.  Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

LCO Builds New Instrument to Study December Comet

Comet 46P/Wirtanen as viewed with the Faulkes Telescope North, Las Cumbres Observatory at Maui, Hawaii, on 9 December 2018. The green diffuse cloud is the comet’s coma – the green color being caused by carbon molecules. The reddish stripe in the lower part of the image is a background star. Credit: T. Lister / C. Snodgrass / Las Cumbres Observatory / Faulkes Telescope Project

LCO and NASA’s Kepler work together to determine origins of supernova

Artist’s conception of the progenitor system of a Type Ia supernova. A white dwarf (tiny dot in the center of the disk at right) steals matter from a companion star (left).  When it steals too much matter, the white dwarf explodes. This supernova explosion runs into the companion star, causing an increase in brightness for a few days. Credit: NASA

Las Cumbres Observatory Welcomes 2019 Education Partners

LCO Education Director Dr. Edward Gomez teaching astronomy at Camp Cosmos

Call for Proposals 2019A

Las Cumbres Observatory is soliciting proposals for science observations for the 2019A semester, which will begin on 1 December 2018 and run through 31 May 2019. This call is for astronomers from institutions without guarantees of Network time: the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC), the University of Colorado, and the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC). Astronomers affiliated with LCO, including Time Allocation Committee members and Science Advisory Committee members, are also welcome to submit proposals. (LCO's Science Collaboration partners that have guaranteed time conduct independent proposal solicitations and reviews.)

fl16 Sinistro bad dark; SBIG cameras fast & slow; etc.

Last week, the fl16 Sinistro camera (on the Dome A 1m telescope in South Africa) was equipped with a new Archon CCD controller. In the nights following the release of that instrument, from Aug 9 to Aug 13, bad dark frames were acquired which corrupted image calibration. The darks were bad because they were made with the camera shutter open. A result of the corrupted calibration is images with high negative sky backgrounds. ----- We are currently re-processing data acquired on these nights with a valid dark frame. If you have already retrieved fl16 data from the archive, we recommend that you download it again. We apologize for the inconvenience.
We've been aware for months of the variations in inter-exposure times among the SBIG cameras (on the 0.4m telescopes). On "faster" cameras, the inter-exposure time is less than the expected default (14s), which can result in multi-exposure observations completing before the observing window closes. On "slower" cameras, the inter-exposure time can be greater than the expected default, which can result in multi-exposure observations getting cut-off when the window closes. ----- We recently discovered that the "slower" cameras get bogged down when calculating guiding corrections. (The 0.4m telescopes do not have extra guide cameras; they "self-guide".) When we disabled guiding on the "slower" cameras, the inter-exposure times were consistently close to the default. In light of this discovery, we've decided to disable guiding on the 7 "slower" cameras. Exposures for which guiding is set to "On" in the request will still succeed, but the AGSTATE header variable will be set to IDLE.
More news about our fleet of SBIG cameras:
  • On 2018-07-26, the 0m4a telescope in South Africa resumed making science observations. The focus mechanism on the telescope was repaired.
  • On 2018-07-19, the kb98 camera was removed from the 0m4a telescope in Australia. It was replaced by kb24, which began science observations on 2018-08-03.
  • On 2018-08-01, the kb80 camera was removed from the 0m4a telescope in Texas. It was replaced by kb92, which is currently being commissioned.

LCO will host Professor Tabby Boyajian at Open House on August 24

Las Cumbres Observatory will host an open house at its headquarters in Goleta, California, from 5:30-7:30pm on Friday, August 24.

New controllers for Sinistro cameras

Since July 27, we have been testing a new STA Archon CCD controller on the fl16 Sinistro imager (on the Dome B 1-meter telescope at the Sutherland site). The installation of the Archon controller on fl16 is the first step in our campaign to replace the CCD controllers on all of the Sinistros in the network. We will continue to deploy Archon controllers to other sites throughout the year.

FLOYDS slit errors

We've recently discovered two errors that may affect users of the FLOYDS spectrographs on the 2m telescopes.
  • Beginning on the night of July 10 at Haleakala (OGG) and on July 11 at Siding Spring (COJ), the slit position angle for FLOYDS spectra was fixed at 0 degrees for all observations. The header variables (ROTMODE=SKY, ROTSKYPA=0.0) show this, but of course, these setting are not what was indicated in the observation request. This bug was fixed on July 31, during the OGG night.
  • Beginning on the night of July 25 at Haleakala, the FLOYDS controller malfunctioned, causing errors in slit selection. As a results, the slit widths used for spectra do not necessarily correspond to the requested slit widths. The controller was reset (which fixed the problem) on July 31. If you received FLOYDS spectra within this time frame, inspect the header information to determine whether you got the slit width that you expected. In some cases, the header value (keyword=APERWID) is "UNKNOWN".

Call for education partners 2019

Las Cumbres Observatory is pleased to announce that we are accepting applications for new education partners with projects to run between 1 December 2018 - 1 December 2019.

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