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Proceedings Paper

Control of the TSU 2-m automatic telescope
Author(s): Joel A. Eaton; Michael H. Williamson
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Paper Abstract

Tennessee State University is operating a 2-m automatic telescope for high-dispersion spectroscopy. The alt-azimuth telescope is fiber-coupled to a conventional echelle spectrograph with two resolutions (R=30,000 and 70,000). We control this instrument with four computers running linux and communicating over ethernet through the UDP protocol. A computer physically located on the telescope handles the acquisition and tracking of stars. We avoid the need for real-time programming in this application by periodically latching the positions of the axes in a commercial motion controller and the time in a GPS receiver. A second (spectrograph) computer sets up the spectrograph and runs its CCD, a third (roof) computer controls the roll-off roof and front flap of the telescope enclosure, and the fourth (executive) computer makes decisions about which stars to observe and when to close the observatory for bad weather. The only human intervention in the telescope's operation involves changing the observing program, copying data back to TSU, and running quality-control checks on the data. It has been running reliably in this completely automatic, unattended mode for more than a year with all day-to-day adminsitration carried out over the Internet. To support automatic operation, we have written a number of useful tools to predict and analyze what the telescope does. These include a simulator that predicts roughly how the telescope will operate on a given night, a quality-control program to parse logfiles from the telescope and identify problems, and a rescheduling program that calculates new priorities to keep the frequency of observation for the various stars roughly as desired. We have also set up a database to keep track of the tens of thousands of spectra we expect to get each year.

Paper Details

Date Published: 15 September 2004
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 5496, Advanced Software, Control, and Communication Systems for Astronomy, (15 September 2004); doi: 10.1117/12.549451
Show Author Affiliations
Joel A. Eaton, Tennessee State Univ. (United States)
Michael H. Williamson, Tennessee State Univ. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 5496:
Advanced Software, Control, and Communication Systems for Astronomy
Hilton Lewis; Gianni Raffi, Editor(s)

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