Last weekend one of our flagship telescopes, Faulkes Telescope South (FTS), celebrated its 10 year anniversary. For many years FTS was one of only 2 telescopes in the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. Consequently it, and its twin Faulkes Telescope North, provided the majority of science and education images and data over the past 10 years.
FTS is located at Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales, Australia which coincidently is celebrating its 50 year anniversary. To mark the occasion, and also the 40 year anniversary of the Anglo Australian Telescope and the 30 year anniversary of the Advanced Technology Telescope, there was an extra special Star Fest this weekend.
Two members of the Australian arm of the LCOGT telescope operations team, Mark Willis (FTS site manager) and Andrew Pickles, were on hand to give the public tours around the LCOGT installation at Siding Spring. Throughout the whole day they talked to hundreds of people who munched their way through 200 Lamington cakes especially made for the FTS celebration.
We are continually updating our systems with hardware and software, to improve the capabilities of our network. One major upgrade we have recently made is to allow adaptive scheduling of comets. We have had the capability to adaptively schedule asteroids, using the statistics astronomers know about the orbit of these objects (called Orbital Elements) since 1 April 2014*. This is a complex problem for the robotic scheduler because minor planets (asteroids and comets) are continuously moving, making them difficult to pin down and observe in a flexible way.