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Argus Optical Array Motion Control: tracking the entire sky with a large single-dome array telescope

Presentation #244.02 in the session New Approaches — iPoster Session.

Published onJun 29, 2022
Argus Optical Array Motion Control: tracking the entire sky with a large single-dome array telescope

The Argus Optical Array will further our understanding of fast transient astrophysical phenomena with timescales of milliseconds to minutes such as kilonovae, optical counterparts to fast radio-bursts, energetic flares from M-dwarfs and other exotic events. Observing these short-duration events requires instruments that can continuously monitor the whole sky. Most time-domain surveys follow a tiling strategy such that previously-observed fields are revisited on timescales of hours to days. Another approach, implemented by the Evryscope, is to observe the entire sky above an airmass of two with multiple small-aperture telescopes mounted on a monolithic dome. This strategy produces several fast transient detections across our FoV every night, but our understanding of these phenomena is limited without faster instruments capable of reaching larger depths. The Argus Optical Array is an all-sky telescope capable of reaching mg=19.6 in minute exposures at arcsecond-level resolution. Conventionally, covering the entire sky requires an array of hundreds of mounts, each responsible for a small number of telescopes. With O(1000) telescopes, Argus will be one of the most complex astronomical instruments built and it will have fewer moving parts compared to conventional array telescopes. This amounts to thousands of moving parts, exposed optics and thus maintenance budgets that render projects of this scope extremely difficult. Argus addresses the mechanical complexity of such a system by placing all optics in the same controlled environment, reducing thousands of moving parts to a tracking drive and polar alignment system. However, Argus’ weight, volume, and unique requirements drive the development of a new type of tracking drive. We here present the motion control systems required for single-dome array telescopes, a custom-built high-precision linear actuator for tracking and an automated approach to polar alignment for an instrument resting on an oversized equatorial mount. Currently at the deployment stage, the Argus Technology Demonstrator (ATD) is a 12-telescope prototype system inside an 8 foot dome that will demonstrate the Argus Optical Array motion control systems. We evaluate tracking performance and image quality metrics over the first few months of ATD operation and discuss upcoming innovations for the Argus Optical Array concept.

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