Astrophysical phenomena occur on a range of timescales, and to properly characterize them, observations must be made at appropriate intervals on instrumentation determined by the scientific goals of the study. The traditional model of scheduling telescope time in blocks of consecutive nights and requiring the investigators to operate the instrument (either in person or remotely) is not optimal for this science. A queue-scheduled approach to time allocation can relieve the personal and financial burden of interactive observing runs. This is particularly powerful when requests for observations can be made through a programmatic interface, which provides not just a convenient tool for all astronomy programs, but also the opportunity to build fully automated observing programs. This will be an essential component of projects making follow-up observations for modern surveys that produce millions of alerts per night, as much of the science return will depend upon obtaining classification and characterization data rapidly and efficiently, as well as for coordination of observations across multiple facilities. The AEON Network is an initiative to build a programmatically accessible, queue-scheduled and user driven network of telescopes ideal for modern astronomical observing programs.
The Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) Telescope is evolving to maximize scientific productivity in an era dominated by large surveys and multi-messenger astronomy, while still retaining its role as a vehicle for flexible scientific programs, and as a source of training for advanced students and other early-career scientists. It must also manage this evolution in a cost-effective way. We describe the evolution of the facility to software-intensive queue scheduling for a large fraction of the science time. During queue operation, the telescope operates as part of a network of facilities that will provide observations over a range of apertures, longitude and latitude, and instrumental capability. We further describe the renewal of telescope systems and the instrument suite that is required to ensure that the facility remains reliable and scientifically competitive over the next decade and beyond.
The Astronomical Event Observatory Network is a collaboration between NSF’s National Optical/IR Astronomy Research Laboratory and Las Cumbres Observatory to develop an ecosystem of world-class telescope facilities that will enable fast and efficient follow up observations of transients and Time Domain astronomy targets in the era of the Legacy Survey of Space and Time. The SOAR 4.1m telescope has been the pathfinder facility for incorporating larger telescopes into this system. Here we describe the concept and architecture of the SOAR Observation Schedule manager software, which handles communications between SOAR and the Las Cumbres Observatory network at one end, ingesting automatically-generated schedules and sending back telemetry on the status of the facility, status of the observing queue, and upload of resulting data files, and on the other end “talks” to telescope and instrument, sending commands and requests, receiving back telemetry and data files.
The Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) 4.1m telescope, located in Cerro Pachón, Chile, has an active optics system that uses a Shack Hartmann wave front sensor to achieve optimal image correction and focus. This Calibration Wave Front Sensor (CWFS) has two detectors, one to acquire the star and the other to sense the wave front. In 2012 the acquisition camera failed, being replaced temporarily by an SBIG camera. We describe here a project to repair and upgrade the CWFS, extending the lifetime of this critical telescope component. The upgrade includes two new detectors and modifications to the existing software in order to communicate with the new cameras. Also, new mechanical supports were fabricated to mount the new cameras, and a new field flattener was designed for the acquisition camera. A laboratory rig with all the components was setup so to carry out extensive testing before installation on the telescope.
With the advent of large-scale time-domain surveys such as the LSST, there is a strong desire for the 4-m SOAR Telescope to be able to respond efficiently and effectively to transient alerts. Enabling the required capabilities at SOAR will also support a greater variety of science programs than conventional telescope scheduling. These capabilities are best deployed with SOAR acting as one of several telescopes responding to alerts and supporting time domain programs. We outline how this might be done if SOAR is included as a node in the Las Cumbres Observatory network, at least part-time. This allows SOAR to make use of extensive existing software infrastructure, while adding a larger aperture to the existing network. Participation of SOAR also serves as a pathfinder for participation of other large telescopes in an evolved LCO network. The overall workflow is outlined. Required interfaces are described. Finally, the initial development efforts with this goal in mind are outlined.
The Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) Telescope is a 4.1 meter aperture telescope situated in Cerro Pachon, IV Region, Chile. The telescope works from the atmospheric cut-off in the blue (320 nm) to the near infrared and has been designed to deliver the highest possible angular resolution at optical wavelengths. The telescope has an altazimuth mount which is controlled by the Mount Control Unit (MCU) system.
The SOAR Mount Control Unit Upgrade Project seeks to replace the current MCU in the SOAR telescope. The new control unit will be based on the National Instruments cRIO-9039 controller, which will allow to improve the telemetry, improve fault detection and use new digital control techniques.
This will allow a more compact and robust MCU. This paper introduces the project, shows the control architecture and the current status of the new MCU implementation.
The linear Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector has been operating at the SOuthern Astrophysical Research telescope since 2014. It was designed and built in collaboration between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. The device is installed in the elevation axis before the instruments mounted at the optical Nasmyth focus. It consists of two 300mm diameter sol-gel coated fused silica prisms, trombone mounted, which can be folded in or out of the beam. It is important for long slit spectroscopy, and essential for Multi-Object Slit spectroscopy. We present optical and mechanical designs, electronics and software control, and on-sky performance.