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PIRATE was previously a remote-controlled observatory with a 17 inch telescope on a robotic mount in an automated 3.5m dome. It was mainly used for university level astrophysics teaching, both in a distance learning context and in traditional lab courses. Research applications included the photometric monitoring of transiting exoplanets, periodic variable stars and transient sources.

PIRATE was funded by the Physics Innovations Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (piCETL) and the Open University's Department of Physics and Astronomy (now the School of Physical Sciences).


Main Optical Tube Assembly

PIRATE Mark 1 - until August 2010


PIRATE Mark 2 - from August 2010

PlaneWave Instruments CDK17 17 inch aperture
focal length 2939 mm

Main Camera

Since September 2011

SBIG camera STX-16803
KAF-16803 CCD, 4096 x 4096 pixels @ 9µm
42 arc min field of view
5 position filter wheel

Before September 2011

SBIG camera STL1001E
1024 x 1024 pixels @ 24µm
29 arc min field of view
8 position filter wheel


aperture 80mm
focal length 600mm
SBIG camera ST402 ME
765 x 510 pixels @ 9µm
40 arcmin field of view


Paramount ME


In August 2009 PIRATE moved into a 3.5 m All-Sky dome in clam-shell design, manufactured by Baader Planetarium.


Main user interface: ACP Observatory Control by DC-3 Dreams

Driver for Paramount: TheSky
Camera control: MaximDL
Focus control: Focus Max

© 2017 The Open University