The Tenerife installation was first constructed self contained in a shipping container in approximately 1997. The original aim of the obervatory was to observe Gamma Ray Burster events and was funded by The Royal Society. The site operated for approximately one year during 1998, progress was slow, due to difficulties remotely operating the Meade mount. The final blow for the project was the Oxenhope observatory being struck by lightning (see the Oxenhope page). The total devastation at the Oxenhope site derailed the rest of the project as most of the research and visible results were produced by Oxenhope. The observatory has been fairly dormant since, until May 2002 when we (the current team) went out there to survey and restart the project. This site is now the primary focus of all the project's efforts to install a working autonomous robotic telescope system. The image to the upper-right is of the observatory in approximately 1998.
During the initial visit of May 2002 we mostly surveyed the work necessary and cleared some of the container ready for work to start creating the new system. The observatory has since been redesigned using new telescopes and cameras, a new telescope mount, new computers, an improved weather system and even a new way of opening the roof so the telescope can see the sky, amongst other things. In these pictures you can see the flip roof that the container had - this never worked very well and has now been replaced with an Observadome roof.
The telescope used initially was a Meade LX-200 with modifications to allow remote operation. Limit switches and positional sensors were added. Ultimately these were never 100% successful. Using the Meade was an SBIG astronomy CCD camera, while piggy-backed to the telescope tube was an Apogee camera. Unfortunately, by the time this picture was taken the cameras had already been removed from the telescope and the wiring partly de-rigged.
The weather station has been almost completely redeveloped on a new entirely modular design. About the only things surviving from the old weather system are the two wind sensors, the rain sensor and the cloud sensors in the picture. Everything else, from the wiring on the mast to the software to take the readings has been completely replaced. We now have many more sensors all using a standardised connection system, being monitored by a modular data recording program which is highly configurable.
The old computers were 486s running DOS. There had to be two networks, one to connect all the computers together on a DOS based network, and another which carried the Internet connection. Two of the computers had two network cards and spoke on both networks. The software to run the observatory was custom. The computers were organised by function - a control computer to oversee jobs, a weather computer to record data from the weather sensors, an image computer to take images with the telescope camera, a point computer to communicate with the mount, a gamma computer to use the GRB camera and a spare. The new system uses four new computers, three Linux based and one Windows 2000 based, with some of the original functional separation.