Friday, December 2, 2011, 3pm
Innovation Hall room 136

Don Smith
Guilford College

Networking Automated Telescopes: Skynet Conquers the World

I will report on a project being run out of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, that has dozens of participants around the world. Anyone with an automated telescope can join the collaboration. A centralized server, dubbed Skynet, handles observation scheduling and task management. Collaboration members can request time on any active telescope in the network. The Skynet Robotic Telescope Network now spans three, and soon five, continents. To date, we have integrated ten non-PROMPT telescopes and are currently scheduled to integrate eight more non-PROMPT telescopes over the next two years. Skynet has now taken over 3.9 million exposures, currently at a rate of about 80,000 per month and this rate is increasing by about 1,000 per month. Skynet's primary purpose is to enable and coordinate the rapid world-wide response to Gamma-Ray Burst alerts. Our team has also developed a flash-based image processing and analysis tool called Afterglow, and a genetic-algorithm-based modeling tool called Galapagos that can model time and spectral evolution of burst afterglows simultaneously. I will present an example of one such analysis: the slow-rising burst 090313, which peaked 30 minutes after the initial burst trigger. I will also discuss our efforts to expand Skynet into the radio regime, and demonstrate the 500-m baseline interferometer being used by students at Guilford College.