The Faulkes South telescope is a Ritchey Chretien telescope that was designed and built in the United Kingdom and is now operated by the Los Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network at Siding Spring Observatory. The aperture of the Faulkes mirror is two metres, so although it is not one of the biggest telescopes in the world, but it is certainly one of the largest in the robotic category.
The telescope is used for research, citizen science, and education purposes by users across the globe. Currently there are over one thousand registered users of the Faulkes Telescopes, who vary from schools and community groups to professional astronomers. A global network of robotic optical telescopes will not only provide continuous sky coverage and the ability to treat the network as a single instrument, but also provide the resources for performing cutting edge science in collaboration with other organisations.
The Faulkes' innovative enclosure provides an excellent system for cooling. By exposing the whole telescope to the night air the problem of heat build up in the traditional dome enclosure is eliminated. To minimise turbulence in the air around the mirror, it is important that the telescope maintains the same temperature as the outside air; with the traditional dome it can take a few hours for the heat inside to dissipate through a relatively-small dome aperture.
The entire Faulkes Telescope system is designed to operate automatically. An international control centre sends instructions via a high-speed internet for the observations to be carried out. The telescope control system will then decide if the weather is good enough to open the enclosure, point the telescope and take the images requested, then move on to the next observation. At the end of night, or if the weather deteriorates, the enclosure automatically closes. Maintenance is restricted to occasional cleaning and lubrication.
Visit the LCOGT.net website for more information on the Faulkes South Telescope and the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network.