Remote viewing brings telescopes to Sydney

People looking at a SMART board in the Science Operations Centre.

20 August 2013

An ASKAP antenna recently took part in the first full VLBI session to be held from the Science Operations Centre (SOC) at the Sydney headquarters of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS). The observing session marked a significant milestone in demonstrating the potential for remote operation of a variety of telescopes from a central location.

Held during 14–19 August, the VLBI session involved remote monitor and control of all ATNF telescopes, with each antenna controlled from a separate workstation within the SOC. The telescopes involved were Parkes, ATCA and Mopra, as well as ASKAP Antenna 29, the same antenna that had been used in VLBI and e-VLBI sessions in the past.

Additionally, the team was able to remotely access other non-CSIRO antennas in the Long Baseline Array (LBA) network including Auckland University of Technology's Warkworth antenna in New Zealand and four antennas operated by the University of Tasmania – at Hobart, Katherine and Yarragadaee and Ceduna.

Over the five day observing session, many different astronomical objects were observed, from methanol masers to active galactic nuclei. The team was also able to fit in a 'target of opportunity observation' of a flaring x-ray binary.

Monitoring was made easy by projecting each antennas' status on the SMART Board in the SOC, which even included monitoring information for the CDSCC antennas at Tidbinbilla and the Hartebeesthoek antenna in South Africa.

"The successful remote control and monitoring of all these telescopes from the SOC augurs well for future remote operation of radio astronomy facilities from the SOC," said Tasso Tzioumis, CSIRO ASKAP Coordinator and head of VLBI at CASS, "particularly the future of observing with ASKAP and ultimately the SKA."

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