Observing with the SARA remotely operated telescopes
November 23rd, 2016
The IAC is part of the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA), a consortium of colleges and universities in the US partnered with Lowell Observatory, the Chilean National Telescope Allocation Committee, and the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias.
In this seminar I will describe the remote facilities operated by the SARA observatories that comprise a 0.96m telescope at Kitt Peak, Arizona; a 0.6m instrument on Cerro Tololo, Chile; and the 1m Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope at the ORM. All are operated using standard VNC or Radmin protocols communicating with on-site PCs. Remote operation offers considerable flexibility in scheduling, allowing long-term observational cadences difficult to achieve with classical observing at remote facilities. Multiple observers at different locations can share a telescope for training, educational use, or collaborative research programs. Each telescope has a CCD system for optical imaging, using thermoelectric cooling to avoid the need for frequent local service, and a second CCD for offset guiding. SARA Kitt Peak telescope also has a fiber-fed echelle spectrograph. Switching between imaging and spectroscopy is very rapid, so a night can easily accommodate mixed observing modes.
The IAC astronomers started to use SARA facilities since early 2016 and a new call for proposals is open. I will present some early results from IAC’s observational programs and discuss the present status of the facilities and the experience obtained by the IAC users that could help new potential observers to prepare their own proposals.