The Development and Implementation of a Remote Robotic Telescope System at Appalachian State University’s Dark Sky Observatory
Robotic telescopes (RTs) are changing the field of observational astronomy. Although, in the past observational astronomy seemed only to be a professional endeavor using large aperture telescopes has now become, thanks to advances in computer technology, a world wide conglomeration of both professional scientists and advanced amateurs. As time has gone on the technologies used to run these telescope systems has become faster, more reliable, and more user friendly. A completely robotic telescope system saves time and money all the while streamlining data acquisitions and pipelining data reduction processes that previously took astronomers hours or days to complete. The observatories of Appalachian State University (ASU), in coordination with the University of North Carolina Gamma-ray Burst (UNC GRB) group at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), are currently integrating their telescopes onto a global network of RTs called the Skynet Robotic Telescope Network. The purpose of the Skynet Network is to observe the very short-lived afterglows caused the little-understood astrophysical phenomena known as Gamma-ray Bursts (GRBs). The network is managed and controlled by Skynet; a Web-based prioritized queue scheduling system continuing to be developed at UNC-CH. Skynet manages astronomical observation jobs requested through its website that run on telescopes during their “idle time”, the available telescope time when GRBs are not being observed. The primary focus of this thesis is on DSO-14, a 14-inch RT at ASU’s Dark Sky Observatory (DSO), the first of ASU’s telescopes connected to the Skynet Robotic Telescope Network and currently available for use through the Skynet website. Discussed is the development and implementation of DSO-14, detailing the installation, the instrumentation, software, modifications we made to an existing dome, and the various problems we encountered. Also included are results of DSO-14’s first successful detection of a GRB afterglow, GRB 090530, observed on the night of 30 May 2009.
Smith, A. B. (2009). The Development and Implementation of a Remote Robotic Telescope System at Appalachian State University’s Dark Sky Observatory. Master's Thesis. Appalachian State University