Abstract Details

Title: A Web-Remote/Robotic/Scheduled Astronomical Data Acquisition System

Authors: R. Denny

Institute/Affiliation: DC-3 Dreams SP

Abstract Type: poster

Abstract Information:

Traditionally, remote/robotic observatory operating systems have been custom made for each observatory. While data reduction pipelines need to be tailored for each investigation, the data acquisition process (especially for stare-mode optical images) is often quite similar across investigations. Since 1999, DC-3 Dreams has focused on providing and supporting a remote/robotic observatory operating system which can be adapted to a wide variety of physical hardware and optics while achieving the highest practical observing efficiency and safe/secure web browser user controls.

ACP Expert consists of three main subsystems: (1) a robotic list-driven data acquisition engine which controls all aspects of the observatory, (2) a constraint-driven dispatch scheduler with a long-term database of requests, and (3) a built-in \"zero admin\" web server and dynamic web pages which provide a remote capability for immediate execution and monitoring as well as entry and monitoring of dispatch-scheduled observing requests. No remote desktop login is necessary for observing, thus keeping the system safe and consistent. All routine operation is via the web browser. A wide variety of telescope mounts, CCD imagers, guiding sensors, filter selectors, focusers, instrument-package rotators, weather sensors, and dome control systems are supported via the ASCOM standardized device driver architecture.

The system is most commonly employed on commercial 1-meter and smaller observatories used by universities and advanced amateurs for both science and art. One current project, the AAVSO Photometric All-Sky Survey (APASS), uses ACP Expert to acquire large volumes of data in dispatch-scheduled mode. In its first 18 months of operation (North then South), 40,307 sky images were acquired in 117 photometric nights, resulting in 12,107,135 stars detected two or more times. These stars had measures in 5 filters. The northern station covered 754 fields (6446 square degrees) at least twice, the southern station covered 951 fields (8500 square degrees) at least twice. The database of photometric calibrations is available from AAVSO.

The paper will cover the ACP web interface, including the use of AJAX and JSON within a micro-content framework, as well as dispatch scheduler and acquisition engine operation.