Press Release

World’s largest robotic telescope ready for action!

By SpaceRef Editor
August 4, 2003
Filed under , ,

The Liverpool Telescope, the world’s largest fully robotic telescope, has
snapped its first images of the heavens this week. This 2 meter optical
telescope is owned by the Astrophysics Research Institute (ARI) of
Liverpool John Moores University (JMU), but observes autonomously from its
site on La Palma in the Canary Islands. The telescope was designed,
constructed and commissioned by Telescope Technologies Ltd., a subsidiary
company of JMU.

The Liverpool Telescope’s unique capabilities of flexible scheduling and
rapid response will put the UK at the forefront of exciting new fields of
research in time domain astrophysics. “This enables us to study such
phenomena as supernovae and Gamma Ray Bursts – the biggest explosions in
space,” said Professor David Carter of the ARI. The telescope’s other
great strength is its ability to make regular observations of objects that
vary over periods from seconds to years. This is very difficult with
current astronomical facilities. It can also track newly discovered
objects such as comets or near-Earth asteroids, allowing accurate
calculations of their paths and potential hazard.

The telescope is supported by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research
Council, making 40% of the observing time available to astronomers
throughout the UK. A further 5% of the time has been donated by JMU to the
National Schools’ Observatory (NSO) programme. “School children can now
work on their own projects alongside professional astronomers,” said Dr.
Andy Newsam (NSO astronomer). This is the first time regular access has
been granted to schools on world-class research telescopes.20

Images

Images can be downloaded from:
http://www.astro.livjm.ac.uk/press/primg.html or www.pparc.ac.uk
Images used must be credited to the Liverpool Telescope/JMU.

Provided are pictures of the telescope itself and a selection of images
taken by the LT with its optical camera during its very first night of
operation. An intensive period of commissioning is now underway. At the
end of this even better images will be possible. Combining several
observations taken through special coloured filters produces the colours.

The Ring Nebula (M57). A “planetary nebula” – the glowing shroud surroundin
g the remains of a dead star. The white dwarf stellar remnant can be seen
in the centre.

The Dumbbell Nebula (M76). A “planetary nebula” – the glowing shroud of
gas surrounding the remains of a dead star. The dramatic colours tell us
about the chemical composition of the gas.

A Globular Cluster (M13). A dense ball of stars that orbits our galaxy at
a distance of 25,000 light years. Hotter stars show blue in this image.
Cooler stars are yellowish.

The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51). A large spiral galaxy somewhat like our own
Milky Way but located about 30 million light years away.

NGC6503. The bright central core of this “Seyfert galaxy” is thought to
contain a super-massive black hole, producing vast amounts of energy as it
swallows surrounding stars, dust and gas.

The Liverpool Telescope. These photographs of the top half of the
telescope were taken in the hours before the very first night of observing.
Part of the telescope dome is visible in the background and illuminated
by the setting sun. The ring at the top of the telescope is 2 meters
across.

Telescope External Views. These photographs show the distinctive and novel
enclosure of the Liverpool Telescope, quite different from the domes
familiar from most telescopes. At night the entire enclosure opens like a
clam-shell, to reveal the telescope.

Notes for editors

The Astrophysics Research Institute (ARI) is the astrophysics research and
teaching department of Liverpool John Moores University (JMU). It operates
the Liverpool Telescope on behalf of the university and the research
community.

Telescope Technologies Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liverpool
John Moores University focussed on the design and production of high
specification equipment including large astronomical telescopes and
instrumentation.

The telescope is sited at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos
which is operated on the island of La Palma by the Instituto de AstrofEDsi
ca de Canarias.

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) is the UK’s
strategic science investment agency. It funds research, education and
public understanding in four broad areas of science – particle physics,
astronomy, cosmology and space science.

SpaceRef staff editor.