Presentation #135.01 in the session “Gamma-ray Bursts”.
The Etelman Observatory of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands houses a 0.5m automated Cassegrain telescope called the Virgin Island Robotic Telescope (VIRT). The primary science objective of VIRT is optical follow-up of NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescope gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) to improve our understanding of their progenitors. Additional VIRT science goals include other short-lived transients (e.g., LIGO-Virgo gravity wave triggers), and extra-solar planet observations. VIRT, and the observatory also serve as a key research facility for students in UVI’s Physics Degree with a Concentration in Astronomy. Here we detail 26 GRBs followed-up by VIRT during the period of February to August 2020, including three GCN detections and seven GCN upper limit reports of Swift- and Fermi-detected GRBs. In addition, we present results from our participation in the follow-up campaigns of GW170817, S200213t, ZTF20aamvnth, and ZTF20aamvmzj. Our image reduction pipeline used for near-real time photometric analysis of transient observations, and the typical response time of VIRT to such events are discussed, as well.