Automated Astronomy Group
Deep within the Patagonia mountains on the Arizona-Mexico boarder, the desert brush conceals an array of corrugated metal buildings. In the daylight hours, the base seems abandoned; devoid of any movement whatsoever. During the night hours, however, several of the buildings open up, allowing eight telescopes the view of the night sky that they need to collect their data. This is the world of automated astronomy. The Patagonian base described is Fairborn Observatory which, through the power of automated astronomy, collects observations for center astronomers without requiring an operator physically on site in Arizona. The computerization of Fairborn Observatory lowers the cost of operation and makes its observations more reliable and numerous.
Automated Spectroscopic Telescope
Chief among Fairborn's array of automatic telescopes is the sizeable, 81-inch (or nearly 2.1-meter) Automatic Spectroscopic Telescope (AST). With over fifteen years at Fairborn Observatory, the AST is unique in that it makes use of an Echelle spectrograph. This spectroscopic capability allows astronomers to understand not just where starlight is coming from, but also what materials it had to pass through to get here. Such information can tell us about the composition of distant stars, planets, and interstellar clouds. Additionally, at nearly 2.1 meters in diameter, the AST at Fairborn Observatory is closely the second largest automated telescope in the world, right behind the Automatic Planet Finder.ref
Control Systems Research Group