The original telescope near Oxenhope in the Yorkshire Pennines was designed as a service instrument for professional astronomers. It was the first robot on the Web in December 1993. The telescope was located just outside Oxenhope, which is a small village about 12 miles away from Bradford. For about five years the telescope website accepted job requests from anyone on the web and attempted to take pictures to satisfy the requests. Once a job had been completed, the person who made the request received an email, and could come back to the web site to see and download the pictures.
However, the infamous British weather gave the telescope very few good nights to observe, and frequently the system could not operate for weeks on end - requests stacked up to huge numbers. The telescope system had proven its point though, it was possible to build a reliable system to accept observing requests from web site visitors, and have a completely autonomous robotic telescope installation take the pictures.
Unfortunately in about 1998 a rather large lightening strike hit the telescope site or somewhere very near it and basically blew anything and everything vaguely electronic to pieces. The team of the time argued with the insurance company who didn't pay up for three years. In this time, the team members came to the end of the projects they were doing, they finished (or abandoned!) writing their various papers and degrees and in most cases, left the university to persue other careers.
In the summer of 2001 the current team formed (see this page). The old project's design work was done nearly 10 years previously, a lot of the systems were hopelessly outdated and the old software would not run with the only new hardware systems that we could buy. The system could now be reimplemented in bigger and better ways. So, we learned what we could from the old system and set off designing a whole new system.
The new Bradford Robotic Telescope project will be at an observing site on Mount Teide, Tenerife, as this is one of the best observing locations in Europe. The Tenerife installation was first construced in about 1997 for use as a Gamma Ray Burst Imager. This time around, however, the Tenerife installation will be the primary site for observing requests and research, while the local site will be used as a test ground. There are also plans to have a site in Australia.
Following are images taken at the time of the old project.
Written 16 July 2002, by Chris Tallon