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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    Milton, ON, Canada
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    893

    Default Dreaming big... network of scopes

    Hi Bob,
    I've been dreaming a bit... and thought I should bounce this half-crazy, half brilliant set of ideas off you.

    Imagine this: say half-dozen scopes, one in each time zone (or for that matter 48 scopes, 1 in each time zone, and with northern and southern hemi coverage).
    Imagine a ACP-on-steroids with a central scheduler/dispatcher that can queue work for scopes from sunset to sunrise, spanning the longitudes.
    So, I could have a job that would run, getting me data at the sites with clear skies and object risen high enough to be imaged.
    Sort of a "network" of scopes.
    Or capture meteors from 2 different locations or more, by aiming at the radiant, and then later doing the analysis to determine where it encountered our atmosphere.

    Or alternatively, we could have a "BOINC" like approach, where people with ACP-enabled scopes could have their local setup "call central" and say, have you got any work I could do for you. With a capabilities list, and conditions etc being registered, so that the "central" dispatcher could say, hey, that location / instrument is great for Omega Centauri, will send the job to it.

    Just thought it might be worth kicking around some more... Maybe not on a semi-public forum like this, but thought I should dump it out there.
    One of the ideas driving this line of thinking is a possible network of automated RASC scopes across Canada, with possible locations at places like SRO, Alain Maury in the Atacama, etc.
    Cheers
    Colin Haig

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Mesa, AZ
    Posts
    26,714

    Default

    Funny thing... I just appeared on a panel on the Future of Telescope Networks at the Robotic Telescopes, Student Research, and Education conference. Here's the view from my chair (Paul Gardner to my left, Russ Genet to my right, Richard Berry more to my right):



    After panel members from Las Cumbres Observatory and Skynet Robotic Telescope Network described their (relatively) small networks of tightly integrated and centrally controlled observatories, and one other panel member talked about his dream of being able to access spectrographs and speckle interferometers, I threw it out to the audience: What do you think of when you think of a telescope network? That kicked off a great discussion with some surprising results. (1) Before anything else, people need to know how to produce scientifically useful data, to include proper calibration. (2) A very important network would be one which provided storage and access to data from multiple observatories.

    Without inhibiting thought, I will feel free to make calls about practicality in any discussion here. I once witnessed a presentation by some professional astronomers dreaming of telescope networks and trying to solve the problem where everyone wants their work to be done on the "best/biggest/fastest" scope on the net, oh and it's not theirs. They presented their idea of a computerized algorithmic system for price/points negotiation in real time, with multi-phased request/response protocol and heuristics for pricing agreement. I just sat there thinking "this problem has been addressed by every financial trading house, right?" They really were going to do this.

    I understand your idea of combining observatories. LCO does the "spanning the globe" thing but all of the big scopes are theirs so they have total control over them. I have thought about the possibilities, and done some designs and simulations, and I know how I would approach what I would call "cooperative data acquisition". But I won't say anything here for now.

    To me the number one problem is how to determine if your observatory can do something that comes in as a request (no matter HOW it comes in). What is the quality measure? What is the capability measure?

    I'm going to move this into the General section since it is not related to our products (yet anyway).
    Last edited by Bob Denny; Jun 24, 2017 at 03:02. Reason: Added "number one problem"
    -- Bob

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Albuquerque(me) / Rincona(scope), NM
    Posts
    666

    Default

    In fact, I believe I make out in the photo a goodly number of the Usual Suspects...

    A scope-network idea I've had is that of reciprocal hosting--2 or more people in different areas hosting each other's second scopes, so that each person can cover 2+ time zones or latitudes, and so that each scope is still looked after locally. With a bit of standardization and very-low-maintenance parts (looking at you, C14 and Atlas focuser), this could give real economies of scale for people who really want access to 2+ scopes and with minimal travel. Networks could extend logically from there.
    New Mexico Mira Project, Albuquerque NM

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    Milton, ON, Canada
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    Default

    Hi Eric, I was thinking about the reciprocal hosting idea as well as clustering at shared sites.
    A simple network might start with "standardized" scopes - e.g. a particular SBIG camera, C14 or PlaneWave 20, Paramount or Astro-Physics mount, and so on. Agree that very-low-maintenance parts is key.

    Was also thinking that system data like field-of-view of the instrument package might be helpful to know in advance during planning, so you could say "I'd like a 1 degree field for this object"; imaging parameters; limiting magnitude of the site at a particular filters passband; local light pollution; all the imaging / optical / location /wx parameters; that sort of thing.
    Data quality is probably a big issue, and central hosting (or cloud-based) data storage and access also would make a ton of sense.
    Am struggling with the financial picture a bit... need to think that through some more.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    Milton, ON, Canada
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    Default

    Some interesting reading on the Las Cumbres Observatory global network of telescopes here: https://lco.global/about/

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
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    Mesa, AZ
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    Default

    Keeping in mind that LCO employs a large full-time staff in Goleta. Two floors of offices and a 5,000++ sq. ft. shop. Supposedly (not 100% certain on this) they paid over half a million for some optimization software used in the scheduler. It is a massive project. Some of the big money went to rehab of the Faulkes Telescopes. It's an amazing project!!
    -- Bob

  7. #7
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    Milton, ON, Canada
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    Default

    Yes, big money operation. They have some spare mirror sets for sale... about the price of my house. I was thinking something much more humble, with amateur-grade (or advanced amateur) equipment. Plus they control every aspect of what they are doing. Again, am thinking whatever we could do would be humble, but using best-practices of amateurs.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Marseille, France
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    Default

    Bob,

    I totally support your comment: LCOGT involves very important means. But above all its staff is highly skilled and really very nice: working with them is a real pleasure.

    Just for fun, I attached some pictures:
    - The color of the logo is not taken at random (think Google ...).
    - A photo of a cabinet with "just few" cameras.
    - A photo of the hall.

    Sure, LCOGT is the largest telescope network in the world!

    Stéphane
    IMG_0868.JPG
    IMG_1949.jpg
    DSC08774.jpg

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    Milton, ON, Canada
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    Default

    Stephane, thank you for sharing (merci beaucoup!)

 

 

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