Thursday, 13 October 2016

October Progress Update

Recently, after a successful service trip to Tenerife, some users with outstanding jobs in the ART queue had images returned. Over the nights of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of October approximately 300 images were taken autonomously.

At that point we believed that we had successfully resolved remaining issues with the ART system and were on the brink of relaunching a full service and accepting new users. However, on 4th October a critical component failed. This component controls several of the main telescope systems and did not seem to be showing any signs of problems previously. Unfortunately, this leaves us once again without the ability to perform autonomous observations with ART.

We are naturally as disappointed at this turn of events as you are as users. Whilst attempts are continuing to resolve this latest issue, we are now looking with increasing focus to the new facilities we are commissioning on Mount Teide to reestablish a reliable service for users - and work on the new facilities is progressing well.

Both the PIRATE and COAST facilities are now well within their commissioning phase with each now returning an impressive amount of data.

Results from COAST show that its images are comparable to those produced by ART's Galaxy Camera, as the following comparisons show:

Messier 16 Comparison
Messier 33 Comparison
COAST is also a Celestron C14. While it does not have a focal reducer, it does have a larger (and newer) CCD than the ART, which gives it a similar field of view.

PIRATE has also been running a preliminary science programme monitoring transiting exoplanets and contributing data to the ground-based campaign following up alerts by the Gaia satellite. One particularly interesting Gaia source, which PIRATE targets frequently, is a rare micro-lensing event. For more details, see this page on the ESA site.

So, in parallel to attempts to make ART work again, we are currently looking at the feasibility of completing jobs that are still in the ART queue with COAST or PIRATE. There will be some differences in the parameters of the image files returned to users due to the different set-up of each telescope system. However, it was always the case that a transition away from ART and to COAST would take place and so this is where our efforts now lie.