jueves, junio 03, 2010

Never stop watching the stars

Hey, take a look at this project!

What about setting a bunch of big telescopes around the world so people, no matter where they are, can watch the stars and the wonders of the sky on a continuos basis?

Dr Edward Gomez
In 2005, philanthropist Wayne Rosing founded LCOGT.net, a global telescope network, to achieve precisely that.

We have asked Dr Edward Gomez, Education Director for the LCOGT in the United Kingdom, and this is what he has to say about.

I hope you enjoy reading as much I did asking.

What is LCOGT.net and how did LCOGT.net start?
Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Net work started life as the hobby of Wayne Rosing (when it was originally called just Las Cumbres Observatory). He lived in a place called Las Cumbres in New Mexico and thought it was the ideal name for an astronomical observatory.

What were the motivations for this initiative? Which persons pushed this project ahead?
Wayne Rosing has been a very keen amateur astronomer for his whole life. He worked in the computer industry (notably for Apple, Sun Microsystems and finally as vice-president of engineering for Google), but always kept astronomy projects as a hobby. These included building his own telescopes and writing the control system software, which he donated to various colleges, museums and charities. Las Cumbres Observatory also sponsors an annual lecture series, research fellowships and an outreach award for amateur astronomers. When Wayne retired he decided to continue the work he had started with isolated telescopes he had built, and create a global network; Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network was born.

This year 2010 will see the opening of the 1st new site at Cerro Tololo (Chile), not bought from philanthropist Dill Faulkes. At which point did Faulkes join the project? Why? Do you plan to extent cooperation with his Educational Trust? What are the main mission differences between them and the LCOGT.net?
In 2005 we acquired the 2 Faulkes Telescopes. These are 2m telescopes and the original capital and operating costs were supplied by Dill Faulke s Educational trust (DFET). We continue to support all the UK schools who use these telescopes, in partnership with Faulkes Telescope Project (FTP).

Faulkes Telescope Project (FTP) and LCOGT have similar aims. We both want to excite and inspire people to take an interest in science and maths, by using telescopes. FTP works with teachers in the UK, providing teacher training and support while their teachers use the 2m telescopes (via remote control over the internet). At LCOGT we have a global vision and will provide access to 0.4m and 1m telescopes, with resources (e.g. forums, video tutorials, astronomy activities) entirely available via the internet. Our focus is on inspiring and exciting anyone with an interest in astronomy, any where in the world.

How is funding accomplished to cover day b y day operations and investments?
LCOGT is a not for profit organisation funded through a charitable endowment.

How the plan to set a global network of telescopes for researchers and students has evolved over time? Is it still a goal to build a global network of 50-70 longitudinally robotic telescopes around the world?
We are still working out the details of how people will access the telescope network. The current plan is to have approximately 40 telescopes ( 2x2m, 28x0.4m, 10x1m).

Educational membership is currently limited to a number of UK schools. Do you plan to offer access to more schools and amateur societies abroad?
Eventually we will let anyone in the world use the network. The Faulkes Telescope Project and University of Hawaii currently have a unique status, because they can use our 2m telescopes. When we have 0.4m and 1m telescopes we will have observing time available for anyone to use our network.

Are you pleased with the outcome so far? What are the main unexpected barriers the project has met and how could these affect LCOG.net future development?
We are mostly building the network ourselves, from the mechanical and electrical engineering and design, to the operating system and observing software. This presents many technical challenges. For example a large portion of the design for our 0.4m telescopes had to be rethought. We have been able to buy some items from other companies (such as Ash domes and SBIG cameras) and some larger items have been manufactured on contract, such as the 1m mirrors.

Spain has become lately a major player in observational astronomy, mainly through its leading Instituto Astrofísico de Canarias, but also via a robust network of amateur clubs. What has been so far the role of Spanish institutions in the LCOGT.net? Do you plan to seek partnerships with Spanish institutions?
We are currently working with the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and very much hope to be able to place part of our network in Tenerife. Generally, we will be very happy to work with anyone that can promote the use of our telescope network.

What are the plans for the future?
In the next few months we will be installing observatory domes in our Chile site, ready for telescopes to be installed in early 2011. We hope that some of our 0.4m telescopes (at Haleakala, Hawaii) will be robotically operational by the end of 2010. At this point we will be able to offer telescope time more widely and start engaging the public in exciting astronomy projects, and making discoveries.


We wish Dr Gomez and the whole LCOGT team a sound success on their quest for bringing the wonders of the skies a bit closer to every human being down here on the Earth.

To know more...