Las Cumbres Telescope sees first light at McDonald Observatory

Apr 10, 2012

( -- The first of a planned suite of telescopes of the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) Network achieved first light recently at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory.

 “We're thrilled,” said LCOGT Scientific Director Tim Brown, “to have our first telescope in such a well-supported site, with superbly dark skies.”

 The 1-meter (40-inch) telescope will be used for both research and outreach to K-12 schools. It is part of a large planned network of LCOGT telescopes to be installed around the world, and the first of five (two 1-meter and three 0.4-meter) and possibly more LCOGT telescopes to be installed at McDonald over the next few years.

 "This is the first telescope to be installed in a ring of facilities around the Earth that will give researchers and educators 24/7 access to astronomical objects," said McDonald Superintendent Tom Barnes. "As the Earth turns and daylight arrives at one facility, telescopes farther to the west will continue to monitor the research target.

 "Researchers at McDonald Observatory will have share in access to all the world-wide telescopes in exchange for hosting one of the facilities," Barnes said.

 The LCOGT network of telescopes will be fully operated and scheduled remotely and robotically. They will be used to search for extrasolar planets, track the exploding stars known as "supernovae," and observe near-Earth objects.

 “Network users will concentrate on objects that change quickly,” Brown said. “If they orbit, or pulsate, or blow up, they're our stuff.”

 Working together, McDonald staff and the team from LCOGT headed by manager Annie Hjelstrom went from an initial agreement to site the telescope at McDonald in February 2011 all the way to installation and first light in just over one year.

 "That must be some kind of record," Barnes said.

 The telescope will be tested and calibrated on-site over the next few days, then the LCOGT team will return to Goleta, California. They will continue to exercise and test the telescope remotely, and expect it to be available for scientific use later this spring.

LCOGT plans to complete the southern ring of 1-meter telescopes in the next year. Three telescopes are in final assembly in California now and will ship to Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile in approximately two months. Three more will ship to South Africa two months later, and two will go to Siding Spring, Australia.

 In the Northern Hemisphere, two more 1-meter LCOGT telescopes will ship to McDonald Observatory in 2013. A site in Tenerife in the Canary Islands will receive three telescopes, and a site yet to be finalized in the Asia-Pacific region will also receive two or more telescopes.

 Established in 1932, The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas, hosts multiple telescopes undertaking a wide range of astronomical research under the darkest night skies of any professional observatory in the continental United States. McDonald is home to the consortium-run Hobby- Eberly Telescope, one of the world's largest, which will soon be upgraded to begin the HET Dark Energy Experiment. An internationally known leader in astronomy education and outreach, McDonald Observatory is also pioneering the next generation of astronomical research as a founding partner of the Giant Magellan .

Explore further: POLARBEAR detects curls in the universe's oldest light

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Giant Magellan telescope site selected

Oct 04, 2007

The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) Consortium announces that the GMT will be constructed at Cerro Las Campanas, Chile. This location was selected for its high altitude, dry climate, dark skies, and unsurpassed seeing quality, ...

Space image: Through the looking glass

Jun 15, 2011

The NASA logo on Bldg. 703 at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., is reflected in the 2.5-meter primary mirror of the SOFIA observatory's telescope.

Small telescope may speed star search

Jan 12, 2006

Astronomers have discovered a planet orbiting a very young star nearly 100 light years away using a relatively small, publicly accessible telescope.

Astronomy proves no joke for well-known comic

Aug 11, 2011

Innocent Twitter banter between a Cardiff University astronomer and well-known Irish TV presenter and comic Dara O Briain has sparked a major on-line search for stars.

Recommended for you

Big black holes can block new stars

10 hours ago

Massive black holes spewing out radio-frequency-emitting particles at near-light speed can block formation of new stars in aging galaxies, a study has found.

POLARBEAR seeks cosmic answers in microwave polarization

10 hours ago

An international team of physicists has measured a subtle characteristic in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation that will allow them to map the large-scale structure of the universe, ...

New radio telescope ready to probe

13 hours ago

Whirring back and forth on a turning turret, the white, 40-foot dish evokes the aura of movies such as "Golden Eye" or "Contact," but the University of Arizona team of scientists and engineers that commissioned ...

Exomoons Could Be Abundant Sources Of Habitability

Oct 20, 2014

With about 4,000 planet candidates from the Kepler Space Telescope data to analyze so far, astronomers are busy trying to figure out questions about habitability. What size planet could host life? How far ...

Partial solar eclipse over the U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 23

Oct 17, 2014

People in most of the continental United States will be in the shadow of the Moon on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 23, as a partial solar eclipse sweeps across the Earth. For people looking through sun-safe filters, from Los Angeles, ...

User comments : 0