The first Universe in the Classroom 2.0 primary school teacher-training event took place last week in Wrexham (Wales, UK), during which participant teachers were provided with access to a global network of powerful robotic telescopes, and the resources and know-how to use them to explore the night sky from their classrooms.
LCOGT is soliciting proposals for key projects: large, coherent observing programs designed to take maximum advantage of the unique capabilities of the LCOGT network to address important astrophysical problems. The goal of key projects is to produce the highest-impact science that can be done with the Network.
In 2016A, LCOGT Network has nine 1-meter telescopes and two 2-meter telescopes available for science observations. The SBIG cameras installed on some of the 1m telescopes are being replaced with Sinistro cameras during the (current) 2015B semester. The distribution of Sinistros and SBIGs will be announced before the start of the 2016A semester. The 2m telescopes are equipped with Spectral imagers and FLOYDS low-dispersion spectrographs. Up to 3000 hours of 1m time and 400 hours of 2m time will be allocated, depending on whether new key projects are approved.
Here's an update on recent LCOGT activities.
A team of astronomers have used the LCOGT network to detect light scattered by tiny particles (called Rayleigh scattering), through the atmosphere of a Neptune-size transiting exoplanet. This suggests a blue sky on this world which is only 100 light years away from us. The result was published in the Astrophysical Journal on November 20 (and is available on ArXiV).
Transits occur when an exoplanet passes in front of its parent star, reducing the amount of light we receive from the star by a small fraction. When the orbit of an exoplanet is aligned just right for transits to occur, astronomers can measure the planet’s size at different wavelengths in order to generate a spectrum of its atmosphere. The spectrum then reveals the substances present in the planet’s atmosphere, and therefore its composition. This measurement is most often performed using infrared light, where the planet is brightest and most easily observed. During the last few years, researchers have been probing the atmospheres of several small exoplanets with large ground and space-based telescopes, but have found it challenging to determine their composition using this method. This is either because the planets have clouds (which obscure the atmosphere) or because the measurements were not sufficiently precise.