LCOGT’s First 1-meter Telescope Ships to Site

Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) shipped their first in-house designed and fabricated 1-meter telescope to McDonald Observatory today. Final assembly, balancing, and testing was completed over the last month and on March 26, the telescope was dismantled and packed for shipping. The truck loaded up and pulled out this morning. This marks a critical milestone for LCOGT, as seven years of development, design, assembly, and testing came to fruition with a production telescope.

Designed for time domain astronomy including exoplanet identification and supernovae research, the LCOGT 1-meter telescope is an f/8 Ritchey-Chretien design mounted in a friction-driven C-ring mount that allows blind pointing to 5 arcsec and tracking accurate to about 1.5 arcsec per hour. The telescope is able to move from target to target in less than 30 seconds worst case, and is considerably faster for targets that have more typical angular separations. The optics are a pair of Hextek temperature-regulated honeycomb mirrors.

On arrival at McDonald Observatory in Western Texas, the telescope will be installed and coupled with an existing enclosure and software support system. The telescope is the first of a planned global network of ten or more 1-meter telescopes that will fulfill science objectives and provide educational data and access. The network will be completely robotic and remotely controlled. The next eight telescopes are all in various stages of production, with the next three queued in LCOGT’s manufacturing bay for LCOGT’s site at Cerro Telolo, Chile.

The initial 1-meter instrumentation includes the LCOGT Sinistro camera system. This system allows for a science camera, autoguiding cameras, multiple pickoffs for other science and context cameras, and a fiber feed for the LCOGT-designed NRES spectrograph. The integrated filterwheel can house up to 21 filters in three overlapping series. The initial science camera will be an 4k x 4k large format SBIG STX-16803. Deployment of LCOGT’s Sinistro science camera, based on a 4k x 4k Fairchild 486 CCD is expected to occur later in 2012. The NRES spectrograph is scheduled for deployment in 2013.

A 1-meter prototype has been functioning at LCOGT headquarters for nearly 12 months. The prototype allowed the integration of the site, enclosure, telescope and scheduling interfaces, as well as the ability to test and verify procedures. Seven years of hands-on experience owning and operating the two 2-meter Faulkes telescopes also provided an excellent baseline for remotely controlled robotic installations.

Future plans include an additional global network of a dozen or more 40cm telescopes that will perform science follow-up tasks and extend LCOGT’s educational network.

LCOGT is a California-based IRS-approved 503(c) non-profit educational and scientific foundation chartered as a corporation by California in 1992.