The Operation of Medium Sized Telescopes in the 21st Century.
The new generation of large optical-infrared telesopes such as the twin Keck telecopes, the ESO VLT, Gemini, Grantecan etc is forcing a re-evaluation of the role and operational modes of the worlds existing 2-4m telescopes. This OPTICON working group aims to bring together the operators of Europe's medium sized telescopes to investiage what new operational models can be developed which allow these facilities to continue in operation in the 21st century.
A first meeting of interested parties was held in Lyon in December 2000. Several sub groups were set up and asked to report back to the group in spring of 2001. For the minutes of this meeting, with links to some of the presentations, click here..
A second meeting was held in Almeria, near Calar Alto in March 2001. This fetured several sessions of extensive discussions about the exchange of telescope time, widening EU access to existing telescopes and exploiting the educational opportunities which these telescopes offer. A summary of the meeting can be found in two different formats click for either MSWORD. or ASCII. . With regard to the benfits of extending access to large facilities to those countries which previously lacked them, Paul Murdin has made available a an (MS WORD) summary demonstating how the output of astronomical papers from Spain has been increasing since 1980.
A third meeting was held in Toulouse in September 2001. This was the first meeting to include representatives from the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Hungary. At this meeting the draft of a proposal for extending telescope access to additional European countires was presented and discussed in detail. This plan, which presently goes by the name of 'COMET' or 'Co-ordinated Operation of Medium-Sized European Telescopes', is being prepared for submission to the next EU framework programme. A draft of the comet plan is available on request from John Davies . Fourteen countries or international agencies have confirmed their interest in joining this proposal. For a summary of the COMET scheme, click here,
As part of the activities of the working group, Dr Rene Rutten compiled a list of European telescopes and their present and planned instrumentation. This is available as an EXCEL Spreadsheet for MS users and as an http file . The full responses to the questionaires on which this summary is based is available as text.
A list of major European observatories , with links to their homepages, is being maintained by the European Astronomy Society.
For interest, here are some links to some homepages of European astronomical institutes in countries which are applying to join the EU. It is is not comprehsive.
As can be seen from the notes of the second meeting various educational uses of Europes medium sized telescopes were considered. Here are links to a few other organisations with similar goals. The Faulkes Telescope, the UK National Schools Observatory set up in conjuction with the Liverpool Telescope at John Moores University and the US organisation Telescopes in Education The JKT, one of the telescopes in the OPTICON network, has hosted school students at its site in La Palma, click for general information on the programme and here for details of one such trip. A related site is the outreach programme of the SOFIA airborne observatory which aims to fly teachers on the observatory. A similar programme as carried out about the Kuiper Airbourne Observatory. Click here for one persons experiences of this project.
John Keith Davies
Astronomy Technology Centre, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, EH9 3HJ.
tel: 0131 668 8348/ fax: 0131 668 8407
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Last update, 1 February 2002