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Starship & Telescope


The Starship Control Room
Starship Control Room Screens
View of Starship Control Room from the front
  • Starship Control Room

    This room, because of the circular shape and the arrangement of users and computers described above, strongly resembles the bridge of the USS Enterprise on the popular TV series Star Trek! The very nature of the observations made here implies traveling to the edges of the visible universe. It is a small step to further the analogy and intentionally design the room to resemble more closely a Star Trek starship bridge. No props or flashing lights for effect, just an efficiently functioning astronomical control room modeled after one of our favorite science-fiction places, the bridge of a starship! I doubt a cooler place exists on the planet Earth!

    The central 75-inch monitor can display any of the computer screens in the room, and its output can be displayed in the lab room on the first floor. The four 40-inch monitors on either side of the main screen show the environmental screens for Kitt Peak (SARA North) (left) and Cerro Tololo (SARA South) (right).

    The computer screens on the console are the actual screens telescope operators use to control the SARA North (left) and SARA South (right) telescopes. This view shows the data storage and reduction consoles on the left station and the local telescope control screens on the right console. The large console at the bottom of the screen is the principal investigators' station (Captain). This console can control any of the other displays and choose to put them on the main console if problems arise.

    FIU is a member of the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA) consortium which consists of ten universities that together operate research telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) in Arizona, and at Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO) in Chile. Both of these telescopes are operated remotely during some nights using control computers at FIU. The SARA Control room will house computers equipped to control both instruments as well as the local telescope in the dome atop the Stocker AstroScence Center, the FIU telescope. Dr. Webb’s investigation into the most efficient layout for control rooms led to a particularly efficient arrangement that opened up a unique stylistic opportunity. The most efficient arrangement for the circular SARA control room would be a layout that features stations for control of each telescope facing a main large screen monitor. On the wall opposite the entrance, the large-screen monitor will be able to display any of the images from the three telescopes (KPNO, CTIO, FIU). Weather monitors for all three observatories will be prominently displayed on smaller screens mounted on either side of the main screen so observers can constantly monitor the weather conditions at all three locations at a glance. Students who will be controlling the telescopes will occupy a semicircular desk facing the large monitor, each operator having two screens: one for telescope control and the other for camera control. Behind the telescope, controllers will be a station for the principal investigator (PI). From here, the astronomer in charge of the night will sit and monitor the activities of all of the telescopes. The PI computer would have the ability to see any of the telescope screens, as well as project any of the monitors up on the large screen. Around the sides will be two computer stations where students can analyze and print the data.


Daniella Roberts standing next to the Telescope
James Webb Standing in front of the Telescope
The Telescope
  • Specifications
    The main telescope is an Astronomical Consultants and Equipment (ACE) 24-inch (0.61-meter) Ritchey-Chretien telescope with focal ratio F6.2. A Ritchey-Chretien wide-field Cassegrain telescope can easily be identified by the rather large secondary mirror, typically 40% of the primary diameter. This is the best configuration for CCD imaging as the optics produce round star images at relatively large distances off-axis. A suitably designed field aplanatic field corrector will yield diffraction-limited images over the entire field. The full capability of the RC system is lost in many telescopes that cannot keep the optics collimated and that suffer from tube currents. ACE provides Ritchey-Chretien optics with or without the field corrector depending on the client's scientific requirements.