We present the MeerLICHT and BlackGEM telescopes, which are wide-field optical telescopes that are currently being built to study transient phenomena, gravitational wave counterparts and variable stars. The telescopes have 65 cm primary mirrors and a 2.7 square degree field-of-view. The MeerLICHT and BlackGEM projects have different science goals, but will use identical telescopes. The first telescope, MeerLICHT, will be commissioned at Sutherland (South Africa) in the first quarter of 2017. It will co-point with MeerKAT to collect optical data commensurate with the radio observations. After careful analysis of MeerLICHT's performance, three telescopes of the same type will be commissioned in La Silla (Chile) in 2018 to form phase I of the BlackGEM array. BlackGEM aims at detecting and characterizing optical counterparts of gravitational wave events detected by Advanced LIGO and Virgo. In this contribution we present an overview of the science goals, the design and the status of the two projects.
We present the software solution developed for a network of autonomous telescopes, deployed and tested in Solaris Project. The software aims to fulfil the contemporary needs of distributed autonomous observatories housing medium sized telescopes: ergonomics, availability, security and reusability. The datafication of such facilities seems inevitable and we give a preliminary study of the challenges and opportunities waiting for software developers. Project Solaris is a global network of four 0.5 m autonomous telescopes conducting a survey of eclipsing binaries in the Southern Hemisphere. The Project's goal is to detect and characterise circumbinary planets using the eclipse timing method. The observatories are located on three continents, and the headquarters coordinating and monitoring the network is in Poland. All four are operational as of December 2013.
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.