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Remote Access Astronomy Project - RAAP

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Project log

Philip Lubin
added 6 research items
We describe the Transient Optical Sky Survey (TOSS) data pipeline, including photometric calibration, object detection algorithms, object identification and astrometry, and the statistical methods used to identify and assess possible transient events. The TOSS telescope system records a nightly series of fixed-declination images that are adjacent in right ascension. Each image is processed with flat-field and dark-frame corrections. Celestial objects are then isolated using a median-kernel background-subtraction algorithm. After identification of distinct objects with a two-pass connected-component search, area-normalized photometry is used to determine object intensity. Object location is established by sub-affine least-squares plate alignment to the USNO B1.0 star catalog. The derived object parameters are stored in a database, keyed by the corresponding star catalog identification number. Over time, the database accumulates a set of once-daily time-series observations for all celestial objects within the fixed-declination field of view for each telescope. To search for transients, the time-series observations are analyzed for significant variations, as compared to the variability of a set of baseline objects observed by the TOSS telescope array.
We describe the optical design of a sky survey system comprised of small aperture telescope tube assemblies mounted on a common semi-equatorial frame with a single polar axis. It is the first ground-based instrument to create a map of transients down to optical m=17 by imaging a fixed-declination strip of the sky on a nightly basis. The system is fully remotely automated and physically robust. The mount tracks the sky using a motion controller, drive motor, and a laser rotary encoder. The prototype configuration is suited to house up to 6 telescopes on the current mount and is easily expandable to accommodate up to 30 telescopes which would enable full sky coverage if one system each were placed in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
Philip Lubin
added 5 research items
The Remote Access Astronomy Project is a unique computerized telescope and data distribution system that has the potential to change the way astronomical, earth science and physics concepts are taught to high school and undergraduate students. The project uses high resolution astronomical and earth resource images and image processing techniques that appeal to the natural curiosity young people have about space and astronomy as well as taking advantage of the familiarity of video imagery. In addition, particularly at the secondary school level, it serves as a forum for low cost and rapid distribution of curriculum materials among teachers and as an educational network between high schools and between high schools and universities.By using a combination of high performance, low cost microcomputers, high resolution interactive graphics, high speed modem technology and data compression techniques, the project can break down the traditional learning boundaries in a classroom and allow students and teachers access to a much richer environment that is, in a sense, a classroom without walls. The graphics resolution achieved is near photographic at 1024 × 768 pixels allowing us to have in the classroom a system that only five years ago would have cost roughly 25–50 K$ but can be utilized for less than $2500 today.The system is currently undergoing testing at the undergraduate level at UCSB, at a number of California high schools and a junior high. The project is supported by the University of California, The National Science Foundation's Center for Particle Astrophysics and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.