10 July 2014 Solaris: a global network of autonomous observatories in the southern hemisphere
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Abstract
We present Project Solaris, a network of four autonomous observatories in the Southern Hemisphere. The Project's primary goal is to detect and characterize circumbinary planets using the eclipse timing approach. This method requires high-cadence and long time-span photometric coverage of the binaries' eclipses, hence the observatories are located at sites having similar separation in longitude and nearly identical latitudes: South African Astronómical Observatory, Republic of South Africa (Solaris-1 and -2), Siding Spring Observatory, Australia (Solaris-3) and Complejo Astronomico El Leoncito, Argentina (Solaris-4). The headquarters coordinating and monitoring the network is based in Toruń, Poland. All four sites are operational as of December 2013. The instrument and hardware configurations are nearly identical. Each site is equipped with a 0.5-m Ritchey-Chrétien or Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube assembly mounted on a direct-drive modified German equatorial mount along with a set of instruments. Computer, power and networking components are installed in rack cabinets. Everything is housed in sandwiched fiberglass clamshell 3.5-m diameter robotized domes. The Argentinian site is additionally equipped with a 20-ft office container. We discuss the design requirements of robotic observatories aimed to operate autonomously as a global network with concentration on efficiency, robustness and modularity. We also present a newly introduced spectroscopic mode of operation commissioned on the Solaris-1 telescope. Using a compact échelle spectrograph (20 000 resolution) mounted directly on the imaging train of the telescope, we are able to remotely acquire spectra. A fully robotic spectroscopic mode is planned for 2015.
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S. K. Kozłowski, P. Sybilski, Maciej Konacki, R. K. Pawłaszek, Milena Ratajczak, K. G. Helminiak, "Solaris: a global network of autonomous observatories in the southern hemisphere", Proc. SPIE 9145, Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes V, 914504 (10 July 2014); doi: 10.1117/12.2055620; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2055620
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