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PolyOculus: Low-cost Spectroscopy for the Community

Published onJun 01, 2020
PolyOculus: Low-cost Spectroscopy for the Community

As astronomy moves into the era of large-scale time-domain surveys, we are seeing a flood of new transient and variable sources which will reach biblical proportions with the advent of LSST. A key strategic challenge for astronomy in this era is the lack of suitable spectroscopic followup facilities. In response to this need, we have developed the PolyOculus approach for producing large-area-equivalent telescopes by using fiber optics to link modules of multiple semi-autonomous, small, inexpensive, commercial-off-the-shelf telescopes. Crucially, this scalable design has construction costs which are > 10x lower than equivalent traditional large-area telescopes. In addition, PolyOculus is inherently highly automated and well-suited for remote operations. Development of this technology will enable the expansion of major research efforts in the LSST era to a host of smaller universities and colleges, including primarily-undergraduate institutions, for budgets consistent with their educational expenditures on similar facilities. We present plans for a 1.6-m prototype demonstrator at the Mt. Laguna Observatory in California, followed by a full-scale 5-meter-class PolyOculus facility for linkage to existing and upcoming time-domain surveys.

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