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LCOGT Sees First Light at McDonald Observatory

Apr 1, 2012

The first Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) 1-meter telescope - of a planned 16 - saw first light Saturday night, April 1st, at McDonald Observatory in Texas. The milestone comes after seven years of research and design, site acquisition and development, and telescope assembly and testing. The results were superlative. Wayne Rosing, President and Founder of LCOGT, who participated on the installation team, said "This is the result of the accumulation of thousands of manufacturing tolerances." He also said, "Wow."

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LCOGT's First Light image of NGC2903 from McDonald Observatory.

The team, working under LCOGT Project Manager Annie Hjelstrom, received the dismantled 1-meter telescope at McDonald Observatory on Thursday of this week. The telescope mount was craned into the waiting enclosure, aligned with the astronmical North Pole, and connected to the electrical system Thursday. On Friday, the team of four assembled the telescope, installed the 1-meter primary mirror and the secondary mirror system. All systems checked out.


The installation team with, from the left, Vincent Posner, David Petry, Annie Hjelstrom, Wayne Rosing, and Bill Wren who will provide support for the telescope at McDonald.

On Saturday, the team collimated the telescope and installed the science instrumentation. After a break for dinner, the team returned to the enclosure and began the process of adjusting the mirrors. Using LCOGT software, Rosing brought the telescope into a good focus and located and captured an image of the NGC2903 galaxy. The event was watched by many of the LCOGT staff through the enclosure webcam. Wayne popped the cork on a bottle of champagne. Hjelstrom raised her glass and said, "Well Wayne. Your crazy scheme worked!"


The LCOGT enclosure at McDonald Observatory with the 1939 Struve 2.1 meter telescope and the 1968 Harlan J. Smith 2.7-meter telescope in background.

Use of the telescope

LCOGT will be testing and calibrating the telescope on-site over the next couple of days. The team then returns to headquarters in Goleta, California where LCOGT staff will continue to exercise and test the telescope remotely.

The network of telescopes will be fully operated and scheduled remotely and robotically. Ideal for locating exo-planets, tracking supernovae, and observing near-Earth objects, the telescope is expected to be available for scientific use later this Spring.


The 1-meter telescope in the enclosure.

Future Developments

LCOGT plans to complete the southern ring of 1-meter telescopes in the next year. Three telescopes are in final assembly in California now and will ship to the company's node at Cerro Tololo in approximately two months. Three more will ship to South Africa two months later, and two will ship to the company's site in Siding Spring, Australia.

In the Northern Hemisphere, two more 1-meter LCOGT telescopes will ship to McDonald in 2013. A site in Tenerife in the Canary Islands will be receive three telescopes, and a site yet to be finalized in the Asia-Pacific region will also receive two or more telescopes.