The NRT (New Robotic Telescope) is a project to design and build the biggest robotic telescope in the world: a 4-meter diameter telescope that will operate in a completely autonomous way, an artificial intelligence able to take decisions.
Despite its big size and weight, it will be a very fast telescope. After receiving a signal of alert, it will be able to point to any area of the sky within 30 seconds.
The telescope will be located in one of the best astronomical observatories in the world, the Roque de los Muchachos observatory, in the Canary Island of La Palma. Specifically in the place where the old Carlsberg Meridian Telescope is right now.
All these characteristics will make of NRT a key telescope in the discoveries of what has been called time domain astronomy. Even though the Universe may seem static, there are many processes taking place hidden from our sight. For instance, there are gigantic explosions blasting off all around us, liberating in a short time (from minutes to months) more energy than the Sun will liberate in its entire lifetime of 10 billion years. The NRT will be a fundamental telescope to study these phenomena.
The University of Liverpool John Moores (LJMU), the University of Oviedo and the IAC are part of the consortium.
The project requires important technological advances in various areas of optics, mechanics, electronics and software, in particular the development of a robust, reliable and efficient control system. With funding from the Government of the Canary Islands, in 2018 the first steps were taken for the creation of the technical team that will be responsible for articulating the participation of the IAC in the project. At present, the team is made up of highly specialized engineers in the areas of software, optics and systems. This group has worked in close contact with the LJMU and University of Oviedo teams and has had an outstanding participation in the preparation of the preliminary design presented in December 2021.
The project is now in a new phase of development of the critical design of the telescope and instrumentation. It is estimated that the construction will be finished in five years.
The innovative nature of the project, that can constitute reference standards in several aspects for future developments, fits perfectly with the objectives of IACTec.
Technical visit to Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (ORM)
In April 2022, the NRT staff of the Institute of Astrophysics of Canary Islands went to the astronomical observatory in La Palma (ORM), to "stand on the shoulders of giants", as Newton would say.
The main goal was to get to know closely the software of the GTC, the biggest telescope in the world, in order to adapt it for the NRT, which will be the biggest robotic telescope in the world.
We were lucky to go through the "forbidden doors" of GTC, the backstage, like the mirrors' room, the electrical room or the room with the IT racks. And even more interesting: we learnt about the rights and wrongs that they encountered on the processes of building this titanic telescope and putting it to work. Some recommendations seem easy to follow and others not so much, for instance, we will have to imagine what technology will be like in 20 years so that the telescope can be easily updated as time goes by.
GTC is not a robotic telescope, at night there are several operators working there, taking the decisions of what to observe and what to do if a problem with the telescope comes up. And they also decide when to close the telescope if the weather conditions get bad.
In the case of a robotic telescope these decisions are taken by an "artificial intelligence" of the telescope itself. For this kind of software, the NRT engineers will adapt the "artificial intelligence" of the Liverpool Telescope (LT), a robotic telescope of 2 meters diameter that has been operating at ORM for 15 years, and that we also had the opportunity to visit.
Last but not least, we went to the site of the old Carlsberg Meridian Telescope. This is a telescope that it is no longer been used and that it will be taken to an astronomical museum. This is the site where NRT will be built, an example of astronomical recycling :-)
The Minister of Science and Innovation at IACTEC
The Minister of Science and Innovation, Diana Morant, presided over the annual meeting of the Governing Council of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), 13 December 2021, in the IACTEC building in La Laguna last Monday. Later, in a press conference she recognized the technological and research activity of the Institute during the pandemic.
In the afternoon, together with IAC's Director and Instrumentation Coordinator, she visited the IACTEC facilitates and got to know the projects that are being developed in the center. Carlos Gutierrez, co-principal investigator of the New Robotic Telescope, explained the relevance of the project to the Minister at a national and international level, updated her on the progress done over the past year on the Preliminar Design and introduced some of the NRT team members based in Spain.
The collaboration with the other NRT partners, the LJMU and the Oviedo University and the creation of the Advanced Optics Center (CSOA) to manufacture the NRT mirrors were highlighted during the visit of the Minister.
- Title: El futuro telescopio robótico NRT
Author: Miguel Ángel Torres Gil
Place: Online meeting with secondary level students, Tenerife, Spain
Date: June 10th 2021
- Title: The New 4-m robotic telescope and new concepts for future extremely large telescopes.
Author: Carlos M. Gutiérrez,
Place: Workshop Present and future of optical and infrared astronomy: synergies between China and Spain, Beijing (China)
Date: October 21st 2019
- Title: The 4 m New Robotic Telescope
Author: Carlos M. Gutiérrez
Place: Torremolinos (Málaga)
Date: September 30th 2019
- Title: Time Domain Astrophysics with Liverpool and New Robotic Telescopes
Author: Prof. Iain Steele,
Place: IAC Headquarters, La Laguna.
Date: September 18th 2019.
- Title: The 4 m New Robotic Telescope
Author: Carlos M. Gutiérrez
Place: Sixth Workshop on Robotic Autonomous Observatories, Facultad de Óptica y Optometría. UCM, Madrid
Date: March 1st 2019
Date: February 28th 2019. www.eldiario.es (LaPalma Ahora)
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