For almost a decade we have been developing an open source control system for autonomous observatories
called Remote Telescope System, 2nd version - RTS2. The system is currently used to operate about dozen
observatories. It was designed from the beginning as the ultimate tool for autonomously performing any possible
observing plan on any hardware. Its modular design allows exactly this and enables even more. Currently it
is used to control not only observatories but also CCD testing laboratories. We present the internal design of
this open source observatory and laboratory control package, and discuss its overall structure. We emphasise
new developments and our experiences building a community of users and developers of the package. Design
of the system modularity is explained in detail, and various approaches to software reuse are discussed, with a
demonstration of how the best solution emerged. We describe problems that were encountered as mirror sizes
and associated operational complexity grew. We also describe how the system is being used at a CCD testing
laboratory, and detail the quick transition from previously unsupported hardware to fully automated operation.
We discuss how the system's evolution has affected code design, and present unexpected benefits it is brought.
Our experience with use of open source code and libraries are discussed.
We discuss our experiences operating a heterogeneous global network of autonomous observatories. The observatories
are presently situated on four continents, with a fifth expected during the summer of 2010. The network
nodes are small to intermediate diameter telescopes (<= 150 cm) owned by different institutions but running the
same observatory control software. We report on the experience gained during construction, commissioning and
operation of the observatories, as well as future plans. Problems encountered in the construction and operation
of the nodes are summarised. Operational statistics as well as scientific results from the observatories are also
OCTOCAM is a multi-channel imager and spectrograph that has been proposed for the 10.4m GTC telescope. It will use
dichroics to split the incoming light to produce simultaneous observations in 8 different bands, ranging from the
ultraviolet to the near-infrared. The imaging mode will have a field of view of 2' x 2' in u, g, r, i, z, J, H and KS bands,
whereas the long-slit spectroscopic mode will cover the complete range from 4,000 to 23,000 A with a resolution of 700
- 1,000 (depending on the arm and slit width). An additional mode, using an image slicer, will deliver a spectral
resolution of over 3,000. As a further feature, it will use state of the art detectors to reach high readout speeds of the
order of tens of milliseconds. In this way, OCTOCAM will be occupying a region of the time resolution - spectral
resolution - spectral coverage diagram that is not covered by a single instrument in any other observatory, with an
BIRCAM is a near-infrared (0.8-2.5um) cryogenic camera based on a 1Kx1K HgCdTe array. It was designed for - and
is now mounted at - one of the Nasmyth foci of the fast-slewing 0.6 m BOOTES-IR telescope at the Sierra Nevada
Observatory (OSN) in Spain. The primary science mission is prompt Gamma Ray-Burst afterglow research, with an
implied demand for extremely time-efficient operation. We describe the challenges of installing a heavy camera on a
small high-speed telescope, of integrating the dithering mechanism, the filterwheel, and the array itself into a high-efficiency
instrument, the design of the software to meet the requirements.
"BOOTES-IR" is the extension of the BOOTES experiment, which has been operating in Southern Spain since
1998, to the near-infrared (nIR). The goal is to follow up the early stage of the gamma ray burst (GRB)
afterglow emission in the nIR, as BOOTES does already at optical wavelengths. The scientific case that drives
the BOOTES-IR performance is the study of GRBs with the support of spacecraft like HETE-2, INTEGRAL and
SWIFT (and GLAST in the future). Given that the afterglow emission in both, the nIR and the optical, in the
instances immediately following a GRB, is extremely bright (reached V = 8.9 in one case), it should be possible
to detect this prompt emission at nIR wavelengths too. Combined observations by BOOTES-IR and BOOTES-1
and BOOTES-2 since 2006 can allow for real time identification of trustworthy candidates to have a ultra-high
redshift (z > 6). It is expected that, few minutes after a GRB, the nIR magnitudes be H ~ 10-15, hence very
high quality spectra can be obtained for objects as far as z = 10 by much larger ground-based telescopes. A
significant fraction of observing time will be available for other scientific projects of interest, objects relatively
bright and variable, like Solar System objects, brown dwarfs, variable stars, planetary nebulae, compact objects
in binary systems and blazars.
During the early Summer 2003, the REM telescope has been installed at La Silla, together with the near infrared camera REM-IR and the optical spectrograph. ROSS. The REM project is a fully automated instrument to follow-up Gamma Ray Burst, triggered mainly by satellites, such as HETE II, INTEGRAL, AGILE and SWIFT. REM-IR will perform high efficiency imaging of the prompt infrared afterglow of GRB and, together with the optical spectrograph ROSS, will cover simultaneously a wide wavelength range, allowing a better understanding of the intriguing scientific case of GRB.
In this paper we present the result of the commissioning phase of the near infrared camera REM-IR, lasted for an extended period of time and currently under the final fine tuning.
AQuA (Automatic QUick Analysis) is a software designed to manage data
reduction and prompt detection of near infra-red (NIR) afterglows
of GRB triggered by the dedicated instruments onboard satellites and observed with the robotic telescope REM. NIR observations of GRBs early afterglow are of crucial importance for GRBs science, revealing even optical obscured or high redshift events. The core of the pipeline is an algorithm for automatic transient detection, based on a decision tree that is continuously upgraded through a Bayesian estimator (DecOAR). It assigns to every transient candidate different reliability coefficients and delivers an alert when a transient is found above the reliability threshold.