The Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope (SOAR), located at Cerro Pachon in Chile. Photo credit NOAO.
Las Cumbres Observatory has just reached a major milestone, when the first night of observations directed by LCO were conducted on the 4.1m SOAR Telescope in Chile. Observation requests were submitted via the LCO portal, scheduled by LCO software, and transmitted and executed by SOAR. The resulting data were returned through both the LCO and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) archives. The first night was extremely successful, with excellent conditions for the observations of 10 distinct targets. This is a great achievement for the Las Cumbres and SOAR Observatories - providing access through the observation portal to a larger telescope outside of the network marks the beginning of a unique new partnership between major astronomical observatories.
The inaugural night of observing on SOAR is the first implementation of the new Astronomical Event Observatory Network (AEON). AEON will be an ecosystem of world-class telescope facilities that will make all astronomical observations easier and more efficient. AEON is particularly optimized for follow-up of transients and time-domain astronomy, in preparation for the LSST era. AEON builds on the infrastructure of the existing network of 0.4m-2m telescopes run by LCO to support observations with partner 4m and 8m-class telescopes. SOAR has proved that LCO’s highly automated and flexible system for scheduling observations can be successfully applied to larger telescopes with a wider range of instrumentation.
LCO staff scientist Dr. Rachel Street was one of the first users of SOAR through the new portal. Dr. Street is excited about the future of AEON. “This is really groundbreaking - I have observed previously with SOAR both in person and via a remote interface, but having access to the 4-meter telescope through the LCO portal with a flexible queue-schedule means I can observe my targets much more easily and at the scientifically most optimal times.”
Dr. Lisa Storrie-Lombardi, the Director of Las Cumbres Observatory, is enthusiastic about the impact of the AEON network on the future of time-domain astronomy. “For LCO this milestone marks the implementation of the first of what we hope will be many successful partnerships within the AEON network, providing expanded science opportunities by coordinating with existing facilities."