Commissioning on an Indian Island

Udaipur Solar Observatory (USO)
Image courtesy of Udaipur Solar Observatory (USO)

The Multi-Application Solar Telescope (MAST) is located in Rajasthan, India at the Udaipur Solar Observatory (USO). Observatory Sciences consultants Chris Mayer and Alan Greer spent January 2013 at the site commissioning the telescope control system.

Observatory Sciences began development work on the MAST control system software in 2008, along with that for another Indian telescope: the 3.6 meter aperture ARIES – the largest in Asia. The MAST telescope was transported to its final site on USO's island in the middle of Lake Fatehsagar in Udaipur; a special raft had to be constructed to transport the telescope to the site, and working on the island sometimes requires being rowed to work.

The telescope control system is written using the LabVIEW graphical programming language from National Instruments, incorporating positional astronomy and telescope pointing software supplied under licence from Tpoint. Observatory Sciences built the telescope control system on proven technology, thoroughly tested before delivery and commissioning.

During OSL's commissioning visit, new features were added to the telescope control system software along with performance enhancements. As well as making solar observations, telescope pointing tests were carried out during the night and initial calibrations were performed on the guiding system.

MAST is a 50cm diameter aperture telescope built by AMOS of Belgium. The MAST telescope delivers a world class observing facility in India, providing a versatile tool to study the physics of solar eruptions. Specific science goals include investigating the topology and evolution of emerging magnetic flux regions leading to solar activities such as flares and coronal mass ejections, investigating the magnetic velocity and structure of sunspots and small scale features such as pores in the photosphere and chromosphere, and investigating the decay of sunspots and their relation to moving magnetic features.

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