Viewing posts from February, 2013

All Sutherland telescopes see first-light

We have installed and completed engineering commissioning of three robotic 1-meter telescopes in a matter of a few days this week at the South Africa Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), Sutherland. The telescopes, first built and tested at the company's Santa Barbara headquarters, were delivered to the SAAO site Monday, February 18th 2013. Five days later, on the night of February 22, all three telescopes were on-sky.

Each telescope is a specially-designed homogeneous, maximally available, 1-meter telescope for the purpose of optical monitoring of time-variable sources. Each telescope must provide reliable robotic operation for long periods of time, with minimal hands-on maintenance, deliver good pointing, tracking and guiding, and provide uniform, high-quality science images. They are C-ring equatorial mount, with an optical design comprised of an f/2.5 Hextek lightweight primary mirror and a 330mm diameter Hextek secondary, optically finished by LZOS in Russia, providing an f/8 modified Ritchey-Chretien system, with the addition of a doublet corrector in front of the instrument package. The system is designed for 80% enclosed energy within a circle of diameter 0.6 arcsec.

A small installation team of five arrived a week before the telescopes and installed the piers and cryogenic cooling systems. When the telescopes arrived, they were quickly craned into the three waiting domes, and reassembled. The telescopes were then wired into the pre-installed electrical systems. The team then mechanically aligned the primary mirrors, installed the optical tube assembly including the secondary, and mechanically aligned that. They then installed the instrument package, currently using an SBIG STX-16803 as the science camera, and a Nikon extinction/context camera, tested the mount motors, and prepared to go on-sky.

Two first lights in One Night!

At the South Africa Astronomical Observatory site last night, Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope achieved first light with two of its three 1-meter telescopes. The telescopes, initially built in the Santa Barbara headquarters, were delivered to SAAO on Monday, February 18th, were craned into the three domes the next morning, and one telescope was marginally on-sky for pointing runs by Thursday night. The science camera on that telescope was not commissioned yet, and so first light had to wait one more night. In the meantime, the second telescope was fully assembled, and so on Friday night, the SAAO team, working closely with engineers and astronomers in Goleta, acquired first light images from both telescopes. The third telescope will likely achieve first light in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Sutherland achieves first, first-light

This week members of our engineering team have been installing telescopes at our Sutherland site, South Africa. We are pleased to announce the first of the 3 telescopes to be installed achieved first light on 22 February 2013. The image below is a wide field image taken with a 500mm Nikon lens (not the standard instrumentation) and is a very preliminary observation. There is still much work to do (including installing the other 2 telescopes) but we want to send our congratulations to the on-site team, Annie, Mark C, David, Kurt and Abiy. Once again this team worked a miracle in getting the telescope on sky within hours and installing it (with help from Eric H and Zach, back in California).

2012 DA14 caught on film

An asteroid with an orbit that brings it very close to the Earth this week, with it's closest approach on 15 February at 20:00 UT. For the past couple of weeks staff astronomer, Tim Lister and I have been trying to image this asteroid, called 2012 DA14. We have tried observing from our site at Cerro Tololo which is still undergoing astronomical commissioning, but the asteroid was very faint, appeared very low on the horizon, very close to twilight in a part of the sky which made it difficult for our 1-meter telescopes to observe. All of that meant that we had not had much luck getting images.

Siding Spring back on sky

After the bush fires which ravaged New South Wales mid-January 2013, we are pleased to announce that the LCOGT installation at Siding Spring is back on sky!