Happy 10th birthday FT – a fresh start to operations

Sunday 16th March marks the 10th anniversary of the Faulkes Telescope Project (and the 70th birthday of founder Dr. Martin “Dill” Faulkes), and the end of an era in terms of our operations

 

Following a major upgrade of the software used to control the telescopes, and the start of operations for the global Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) network, the Faulkes Telescope Project will finally “turn off” the RTI software that users have become so familiar with over the past decade.

 

Due to the LCOGT changes, the “Real Time Interface” software will no longer work, and so it will be retired at the weekend. A replacement package called OnSky has been developed by LCOGT (with much of the work being done by ex-FT staff member Dr. Edward Gomez), and will begin testing on the live network in the next few weeks. We hope that users will begin to use this new system in mid/late April, once it has had a rigorous testing period. 

 

There will inevitably be “teething problems” with this new system, and FT are still waiting for a final version of OnSky to be made available to allow us to start developing training materials etc. to support users, so we hope you will bare with us over the next few months as we try to sort things out.

 

The OnSky system will represent a radical change in how FT operates, as the previous live-observing mode that we have used will no longer be accessible. But the loss of the traditional FT live observing mode will be balanced by the ability to access the much wider LCOGT network of 0.4m and 1m telescopes over the next year, and the new access to “offline” observing (where your data will be taken for you, without you having to wait for a specific day and time, only to be frustrated by the weather!). This will mean you can submit your observation requests to the network, which will then carry out your requests as soon as possible, using whatever facility is most appropriate. This will guarantee data is obtained for you much more reliably, and LCOGT are working on modifications to OnSky that will allow a version of “real time observing” to take place, so things are still evolving and will continue to do so over the next few months.

 

More details on the coming changes and capabilities of the OnSky system will be released as they become available to us, but we would just like to take this opportunity to thank you for using the telescopes and educational programmes over the past decade, and ask you to keep in mind that the next few months will represent a new “pilot phase” for FT and LCOGT.

 

We look forward to another decade of successful operations under the OnSky system, as we bid farewell to the RTI, and happy birthday to the project, and to Dill Faulkes!

 

Paul Roche – Director, Faulkes Telescope Project

Sarah Roberts – Director of Education

Fraser Lewis – Director of Research

Alison Tripp – Operations Manager