PROMPT & Skynet
Transient Universe Workshop 2006

The six domes of PROMPT at CTIO in Chile. (In the foreground is GONG and behind is the 1.3m telescope.)
Project Type
Que Scheduled Telescope Network
PROMPT is a set of six robotically controlled telescopes, allowing rapid simultaneous observations of optical and near-IR passbands. It is a subset of telescopes controlled by Skynet; a scalable que based scheduling system that faciliates coordinated observations of objects or transient events from multiple locations.
Technical Overview
PROMPT stands for Panchromatic Robotic Optical Monitoring and Polarimetry Telescopes. The PROMPT telescopes are six 0.41 m Ritchey-Chretien telescopes, designed by RC Optical systems. Five are outfitted with an Apogee Alta U47+ CCD (1024 x 1024 pixels) giving us a FOV of roughly 10' x 10' (~0.58 arcsec per pixel). Each mirror and camera coating combination has been optimized for a different wavelength range, including a u-band optimized telescope. The sixth will be equipped with a LN2-cooled Micro-Cam by Rockwell Scientific for NIR imaging (mid-2006 deployment). The telescopes are on rapidly slewing (~9 degrees per second) Paramount ME mounts by Software Bisque and housed in clamshell domes by Astro Haven. This set up gives the telescopes unobstructed access to most of the sky and the ability to point anywhere in the sky quickly. This setup allows for imaging in ugrRizYJH, six of them simultaneously. In addition, a polarimeter that is being designed and built at UNC-Chapel Hill's Goodman Laboratory for Astronomical Instruments will be installed on one optical band telescope in mid-2006.

One of the 0.41m (16in) RC Optical Systems telescopes on a Paramount ME mount.
The facility is located at CTIO outside of La Serena, Chile. It has been built on the ridge between GONG and the 1.3m telescope. This site has excellent seeing conditions and a large percentage of clear nights. Although PROMPT is run remotely, there the support staff at CTIO is able to make adjustements and repairs when needed.

The brain that controls PROMPT is Skynet. Developed at UNC - Chapel Hill and written in Labview, Skynet is a priortized que based scheduling and control program. Jobs can be entered and retrieved from any location via a PHP-enabled web server that interacts with the MySQL database for job scheduling. Observations are then dispatched from Skynet to dumb-by-design Terminator programs that control each telescope. The data is then automatically transferred back to a 1.1 terabyte RAID 5 array with tape backup at UNC.

Skynet and the Terminator's have been designed to work with any telescope and mount that can be controlled by Maxim DL and The Sky in order to be able to quickly and easily add more telescopes to the system.
3 Faculty -- D. Reichart, J.C. Clemens & C. Evans
1 Software Engineer -- J.A. Crain
1 Postdoc -- A. LaCluyze
3 Graduate Students -- M. Nysewander, K. Ivarsen, & A. Trotter
4 Undergraduate Student -- A. Foster, J. Haislip, J. Kirschbrown, & C. Macleod

The Rockwell Scientific Micro-Cam for near-IR imaging (to be deployed mid-2006.)
Project Lifetime
In testing and commissioning phase now (early-2006), PROMPT should be fully operational in mid-2006. Both PROMPT and Skynet will continue to operate indefinately as long as their usefulness and funding allow.
PROMPT is funded by the National Science Foundation, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Leonard Goodman, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Dudley Observatory, Henry Cox, and the Pisgah Astronomical Research
Short and Long Term Goals


Last modified: Fri March 3 12:00:40 EST 2006