Remotely Controlled Robotic Astronomical Observatories

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We designed and implemented a reusable software package able to control a large, heterogeneous network of fully and semi-robotic astronomical observatories initially developed to run the MONET network of two 1.2m aperture telescopes, and a small campus siderostat.

The package is able to handle complex and long running astronomical projects, to support time-accounting between research organisations, and is accessible not only to professional astronomers, but also to amateurs and high-school students.

The system is able to communicate with notification systems announcing X-ray/Gamma-Ray bursts events, and other astronomical events requiring immediate observation, as well as to exchange information with external astronomical observations scheduling systems (Heterogeneous Telescope Network - HTN).

The system was developed using Cocoa and WebObjects with the exception of the low-level embedded systems controlling engines and other electronic devices.

    Key features:

  • Observation scheduler
    Highly complex scheduler, which is self-learning and adaptive to an unpredictable environment (atmospheric changes, urgent astronomical events, etc.). It maintains long-term observation schedule.
  • Observation broker
    The system is trading observations for either equivalent time slots or real money thus helping users minimise their costs and providers fully utilise their facilities.
  • Data archive
    The system provides fully searchable data archive for data acquired by the instruments it controls. User and group access rights as well as data trading is possible.
  • Information portal
    A rich web-based user interface allows complete monitoring of all available instruments, astronomical project planning, creation, submission, and monitoring of observation requests, and comprehensive live-observation mode.
  • One-stop shop for users
    Professional astronomers, amateurs, and high-school students can utilise the system as a single entry point to the entire HTN.
  • High degree of reusability
    The entire software package or separate modules could be deployed with minimal effort to control other observatories or to add HTN connectivity to existing instruments.