ARIES and MAST Telescope Control

Observatory Sciences has begun development work on the control system software for two new telescopes which will be based in India, providing world class observing facilities in the country for ground-based optical astronomy.

The work is being undertaken by OSL in partnership with the telescope manufacturer AMOS (Advanced Mechanical and Optical Systems) based in Liege, Belgium. AMOS specialises in the design and manufacture of high precision mechanical and optical systems for the space industry and astronomical observatories.

The larger of the two is the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) project for a 3.6m telescope - making it the largest in Asia - optimised for spectroscopic observations. Key requirements for the control system were to operate and control the telescope under all possible observing situations, and to provide complete computer control of the telescope with network operational capability.

To meet the image quality specification, active optics will be implemented. The primary mirror will have its shape actively driven by a set of force-controlled axial actuators. The lateral supports will be passive. The secondary mirror will be positioned in five axes to compensate for misalignment with the primary. Both active systems will use data from a wave front sensor.

The telescope will be set up at an altitude of 2540 metres at Devasthal Peak, near Nainital. The ARIES primary mirror will be produced by the Russian Lytkarino Optical Glass Factory (LZOS) in Moscow.

The second, smaller Indian telescope for which OSL is providing the control software is the Multi-Application Solar Telescope (MAST) to be sited in Rajasthan at the Udaipur Solar Observatory (USO), and which will provide a versatile tool to study the physics of solar phenomena. The new telescope will add to the existing facilities at this renowned observatory, which is one of six solar observatories in the world that together can monitor the sun 24 hours a day.

Both these telescopes' control systems will be written using the LabVIEW graphical programming language from National Instruments, incorporating positional astronomy and telescope pointing software supplied under licence from Tpoint.

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