The primary goal of the ROTSE project was to achieve observations in optical light of the massive deep-space explosions called gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). Operated by the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the 0.45m, 3rd-generation robotic telescope at Siding Spring Observatory has successfully detected the transient optical emission from several GRB events. By modern standards of optical astronomy, the ROTSE equipment is quite modest. However, the wide field of view and the fast response permit measurements inaccessible to more conventional instruments.
The ROTSE experiment currently consists of four telescopes located in Australia, Namibia, Turkey, and at the McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas. The project is a collaboration between astrophysicists from the University of Michigan, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of New South Wales (Australia), and the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics (Germany).