Discovery Channel Telescope Target Scheduler

Team Celestial Team Celestial at the Discovery Channel Telescope building at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ.

The Team

Team Celestial is comprised of four senior undergraduate students majoring in Computer Science at Northern Arizona University participating in the program's Capstone requirement. We are led by Patrick Kelley and enjoy support from faculty mentor Dr. James Palmer and Lowell scientist sponsor Paul Lotz.

The Project

The Discovery Channel Telescope being installed at Lowell Observatory is in need of Target Scheduler technology that will reduce pointing error while automating the selection of celestial targets based on user criteria. Since the generation of the target sequence is time-dependent, the scheduler will need to be dynamic, adjusting to the particular user experience. Optimal whole-sky coverage will be provided based on minimal telescope adjusting time or, possibly, other user-specified criteria. (Read more in the project description).

DCT logo

In order to provide whole-sky coverage of a given set of stellar coordinates, the user needs to, somewhat obviously, input the area of the sky he or she wishes to observe. The utility will be provided for the user to input a file of stellar coordinates, and this will be the starting point of a given user session of our product.

From there, our product will go to work, interpreting the grid coordinates -- and the celestial objects therein -- to formulate a grid of the desired portion of the night sky. Ideally, this grid will be manipulateable and configurable by the client, becoming a (if not the) user interface itself, but the client has expressed that this type of functionality is purely optional.

The user will then indicate to our product when he or she is ready for the next observation. The scheduler will query the Telescope Control System for its current location (i.e. where it is pointing), and our solution algorithm will execute. (Read more in the project requirements).

Clearly this is the greatest idea since sliced bread.

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