Robo-AO is the first autonomous laser adaptive optics system and science instrument operating on sky. The system robotically executes large scale surveys, monitors long-term astrophysical dynamics and characterizes newly discovered transients, all at the visible diffraction limit. The first of many envisioned systems has finished 83 nights of science observing at the Palomar Observatory 60-inch telescope (with over 10,000 robotic observations executed). The system will be augmented in 2014 with a low-noise wide field infrared camera, which doubles as a tip-tilt sensor, to widen the spectral bandwidth of observations and increase available sky coverage while also enabling deeper visible imaging using adaptive-optics sharpened infrared tip-tilt guide sources.
The Robo-AO project, led by Principal Investigator Christoph Baranec, with Software Lead Reed Riddle, Project Scientist Nicholas Law, Co-Investigator A. N. Ramaprakash, and students and collaborators, is a collaboration between Caltech Optical Observatories and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics. It is partially funded by the National Science Foundation under grants AST-0906060, AST-0960343 and AST-1207891, the Office of Naval Research under grant N00014-11-1-0903, by the Mount Cuba Astronomical Foundation, by a gift from Samuel Oschin and by the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum.
October 25th, 2013: We completed another 5-night observing run covering 800 additional observations including an intensive nightly campaign to monitor Comet ISON. The Robo-AO team also welcomes its newest graduate student, Gina Duggan, who will bring the Robo-AO infrared camera online next year and lead initial science observations.
Summer 2013: This summer sees a diaspora in Robo-AO leadership: Principal Investigator Christoph Baranec and Project Scientist Nicholas Law started faculty positons at the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill repectively. Both will continue working with the Robo-AO system and data. In the meantime, Reed Riddle will take over Robo-AO operations at Palomar Observatory.
August 21st, 2013: This marks the end of the Robo-AO summer observing season with the automated odometer well past 9000 observations! This weekend, Christoph (and Nick via remote) will be following up many of the Robo-AO discoveries from this past run with the Keck laser adaptive optics system for further infrared characterization and Robo-AO will be lending its main science camera to CHIMERA next week. We also have a new time-lapse video of the laser captured from a camera bolted to the Robo-AO electronics rack: it shows the laser and sky from the telescope's point of view.
The Robo-AO, TripleSpec and CHIMERA observing teams in front of the Palomar 200" telescope: Dani, Leon, Christoph, Reed, Alex, Juliette and Phil.