The robotic 2-metre Liverpool Telescope (LT), located at Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma, has seen great success in its <15 year lifetime. In particular the facility thrives in time domain astronomy, responding rapidly to triggers from Swift and efficiently conducting a wide variety of science with its intelligent scheduler. The New Robotic Telescope (NRT) will be a 4-metre class, rapid response, autonomous telescope joining the Liverpool Telescope on La Palma in ~2025. The NRT will slew to targets and start observations within 30 seconds of receipt of a trigger, allowing us to observe faint and rapidly fading transient sources that no other optical facility can capture. The NRT will be the world’s largest optical robotic telescope. Its novel, first-generation instrumentation suite will be designed to conduct spectroscopic, polarimetric and photometric observations driven by user requirements.
The preferred programming languages and operating systems used in writing and running astrometric software have changed over time. The Python language is now well supported by the scientific community which provides open-source standard libraries for astronomical calculation including Astropy,1 SciPy2 and NumPy.3 We surveyed available open source astrometric libraries and compare ICRS coordinate to observation transforms using recent releases of C source code and Python wrappers from the IAU Standard of Fundamental Astronomy4 (SOFA), against those using the US Naval Observatory Vector Astrometry Software5 (NOVAS). The selection of an underlying operating system with long term support is also an important aspect of maintaining a working telescope control system. The installation and operation of the libraries under both Linux Ubuntu LTS (Long Term Support) and Windows 10 are explored.
The Liverpool Telescope has been in fully autonomous operation since 2004. The supporting data archive facility has largely been untouched. The data provision service has not been an issue although some modernisation of the system is desirable. This project is timely. Not only does it suit the upgrade of the current LT data archive, it is in line with the design phase of the New Robotic Telescope which will be online in the early-2020s; and with the development of a new data archive facility for a range of telescopes at the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand. The Newton Fund enabled us to collaborate in designing a new versatile generic system that serves all purposes. In the end, we conclude that a single system would not meet the needs of all parties and only adopt similar front-ends while the back-ends are bespoke to our respective systems and data-flows.
The Liverpool Telescope is a fully robotic 2-metre telescope located at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos on the Canary Island of La Palma. The telescope began routine science operations in 2004, and currently seven simultaneously mounted instruments support a broad science programme, with a focus on transient followup and other time domain topics well suited to the characteristics of robotic observing. Work has begun on a successor facility with the working title ‘Liverpool Telescope 2’. We are entering a new era of time domain astronomy with new discovery facilities across the electromagnetic spectrum, and the next generation of optical survey facilities such as LSST are set to revolutionise the field of transient science in particular. The fully robotic Liverpool Telescope 2 will have a 4-metre aperture and an improved response time, and will be designed to meet the challenges of this new era. Following a conceptual design phase, we are about to begin the detailed design which will lead towards the start of construction in 2018, for first light ∼2022. In this paper we provide an overview of the facility and an update on progress.
Scientific-CMOS (sCMOS) cameras can combine low noise with high readout speeds and do not suffer the charge multiplication noise that effectively reduces the quantum efficiency of electron multiplying CCDs by a factor 2. As such they have strong potential in fast photometry and polarimetry instrumentation. In this paper we describe the results of laboratory experiments using a pair of commercial off the shelf sCMOS cameras based around a 4 transistor per pixel architecture. In particular using a both stable and a pulsed light sources we evaluate the timing precision that may be obtained when the cameras readouts are synchronized either in software or electronically. We find that software synchronization can introduce an error of ~ 200-msec. With electronic synchronization any error is below the limit (~ 50-msec) of our simple measurement technique.
The robotic 2m Liverpool Telescope, based on the Canary island of La Palma, has a diverse instrument suite and a strong track record in time domain science, with highlights including early time photometry and spectra of supernovae, measurements of the polarization of gamma-ray burst afterglows, and high cadence light curves of transiting extrasolar planets. In the next decade the time domain will become an increasingly prominent part of the astronomical agenda with new facilities such as LSST, SKA, CTA and Gaia, and promised detections of astrophysical gravitational wave and neutrino sources opening new windows on the transient universe. To capitalise on this exciting new era we intend to build Liverpool Telescope 2: a new robotic facility on La Palma dedicated to time domain science. The next generation of survey facilities will discover large numbers of new transient sources, but there will be a pressing need for follow-up observations for scientific exploitation, in particular spectroscopic follow-up. Liverpool Telescope 2 will have a 4-metre aperture, enabling optical/infrared spectroscopy of faint objects. Robotic telescopes are capable of rapid reaction to unpredictable phenomena, and for fast-fading transients like gamma-ray burst afterglows. This rapid reaction enables observations which would be impossible on less agile telescopes of much larger aperture. We intend Liverpool Telescope 2 to have a world-leading response time, with the aim that we will be taking data with a few tens of seconds of receipt of a trigger from a ground- or space-based transient detection facility. We outline here our scientific goals and present the results of our preliminary optical design studies.