ETSCORN REMOTE OBSERVING

The Etscorn Campus Observatory, ECO, has a robotic telescope and CCD camera system that can be operated via the Internet by any New Mexico middle school or high school science class. The procedure is designed to mimic what happens at any major astronomical observatory. Students and teachers need to develop an observing proposal, submit a proposal, be allocated telescope time, obtain the requested observations and publish their results.

The system consists of a Celestron C-14 telescope, a Santa Barbara Instrument Group ST-8e CCD, a filter slide that contains any one of three sets of filters and a computer controlled focusing device. We normally have a Optic 0.5x focal reducer in the light path. This provides a field of view that is approximately 16 by 24 arc minutes. Without the focal reducer the field of view would be 8 by 12 arc minutes. Control of total telescope system is obtained with Software Bisque's Remote Access Client suite of software. This suite includes THESKY, CCDSOFT, TPOINT, ORSCHESTRATE and RASCLIENT.

The overall observatory operations including weather monitoring and observatory health and safety are monitored and controlled by a second computer running LABVIEW virtual instruments. Environmental safe guards are built into to the control software that will prevent operations and/or shut down the system in the event of adverse weather conditions or power failure.

Access to the facility requires an Internet connection, Software Bisque's RASCLIENT suite and permission to use the facility. The facility permission is obtained via emailed request forms. The request form will ask for user information, celestial objects to be observed, scientific purpose and date(s) requested.