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30 Inch (0.76m) AutoScope

Completed 0.76-m Autoscope at ARO Photo by John Stone


ARI, Eastern Illinois University and Hands-on Universe in cooperation with the University of Chicago Yerkes Observatory and Argonne National Laboratory will be commissioning a 30 inch (0.76m) AutoScope that will be used for education and research.  The telescope was built in the late 1980s has not been used for over a decade due to a lightning strike that took out all the electronics including the CCD camera.  This telescope will be fully automated and will be in service at ARO in the fall of 2010.  This instrument will be used exclusively for teacher and student research programs including asteroid, NEO astrometric and photometric light curve studies, stellar photometry, supernova and active galactic nuclei research.   Already this instrument has made well over a hundred measures of NEOs in just two months.

The telescope optical design is a Ritchey-Chrétien operating at f/6.65 and will employ a SBIG STL-1001E as the primary imaging device provided by the Planetary Society Gene Shoemaker grant.  The field of view in this configuration is 16.6 x 16.6 minutes.  This telescope is a twin to the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope (KAIT). 

While many regard Illinois as poor site for astronomical research, ARO statistics in 2009 prove otherwise.  In the past year ARO operated 139 nights and was the most productive NEO follow-up program in the world.  In four years ARO in has progressed from 1,512th place to 4th in the world in total NEO measures.  In light of these statistics ARO is a good choice for the 30 inch AutoScope based on total number of clear nights, average seeing and very low operational costs.  The telescope is housed in a low-cost roll-off roof observatory that will allow access to the entire sky without the additional complication of a synchronized dome. 


30 inch AutoScope

30 inch AutoScope at the Fenton Hill, NM former location

30 inch robotic telescope

Detail of cabling and electronics - Fenton Hill photograph


30 Inch Autoscope is moved to Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL

In November of 2009, R. Holmes and J. Pratte made a trip out to Los Alamos, NM to pick up a 30 inch (0.76m) Autoscope and bring it back to Illinois where it will be re-built and placed back into service.  The telescope will be moved from the machine shop at EIU to the Astronomical Research Observatory site at Westfield, IL. 


30 inch telescope at EIU

Moving the 30 inch telescope into the EIU Shop for refurbishing


30 inch robotic telescope

The 30 inch telescope broken down, ready for sanding and new paint


Telescope crew at EIU

Eastern Illinois University students begin work on the 30 inch Autoscope


30 inc telescope construction

EIU student hard at work prepping the steel telescope components for new paint


Telescope mirror cell

EIU Student sanding the mirror cell


R-C telescope optics

Aluminum coatings on the R-C optics are in good condition.


Telescope controller

Sidereal Technology Dual Servo Controller

All of the old electronics from the 30 inch Autoscope have been scraped and since the high output servo motors are working, a new controller by Sidereal Technology was chosen for low cost and a robust design.  We want to thank Dan Gray of Sidereal Technology for his help in acquiring  the latest version of the new telescope control system.  In addition, new encoders have been purchased from U.S. Digital for this telescope as well as the installation of three primary mirror cooling fans. 


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