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Categories of Robotic Telescopes

Manual Telescope (MT)

This is not a robotic telescope, but is included here for reference. For a manual telescope the observer manually positions the telescope and then obtains observations. This would be the situation for an amateur astronomer without a GOTO system that had a CCD camera. Obviously, many such systems exist.


Computer Controlled Telescope (CT)

This would be the case in which a computer points the telescope, and a computer (possibly another computer) controls a CCD camera. This is the situation for many current professional observatories. This is also the current situation for many small university observatories.


Robotic Telescope (RT)

A robotic telescope system contains an intergrated computer interface for a telescope and a CCD camera. One computer software system (window) can control the telescope and the CCD camera. Robotic telescope systems must provide some level of scripting. When a robotic telescope is run using a script by an observer at the telescope, this is termed "dumb mode" or manual mode opperation (RT-M). This is not the same as an observer running a robotic telescope manually without a script. In that case one would essentially have a computer controlled telescope (CT).

It is useful to designate three levels of robotic telescopes. A simple robotic telescope has an integrated computer environment for controling a telescope and CCD camera. A robotic telescope with remote accessibility can be controled by a remote observer (at least at some level). A robotic telescope with real time control allows a remote observer to interactively control the telescope and camera.


Basic Robotic Telescope (RT-B)

In general, a robotic telescope is a system which can provide integrated computer control of a telescope mount and CCD camera. Such a system should be able to point to a specified object using right ascension and declination, verify a field and adjust the position of an object in an image (possibly), track on an object for exposure times of several seconds to many minutes, and save images for subsequent analysis and review. Nominally, such a system would be scriptable so that the collection of complex sets of observations of multiple objects using multiple filters may be obtained in an automated fashion.


Robotic Telescope with Remote Accessibility (RT-RA)

The ideal robotic system should also be remotely accessible, so that observing requests or scripts for an observing session can be uploaded from the web to the telescope control system. Such a system must also provide observers with web access to the observations that are obtained.


Robotic Telescope with Real Time Interactivity (RT-RTI)

To maximize the effeciency and productivity of such a system for research and for instruction, a robotic system should also be interactive and be accessible in real time. This could mean, for example, that a remote observer could be presented with a display that shows the real time position of the telescope and the current status of the instrumentation. This should include the status of the current exposure. It should be possible to view an image remotely as soon as it is obtained. As required, an observer could then make adjustments before continuing with an observing program.