Pakistan Telescope Network for the Astronomical Observations Mohsin Jamil Butt
Abstract Astronomy, the oldest of all sciences has always been the great source for human fascinations and learning about nature. Astronomy has proven ability to inspire and engage all people. When children look out at world, the stars give them inspiration and hope to study technology and science. It is the science which tells us about our existence in Universe. An Astronomical telescope is like a time machine the farther you see, the farther you look back in time. This work is focus on the installation and working of a state of the art telescope at COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad. The telescope will open unlimited opportunities for scientists and engineers along with past timers to carry out studies of outer space. It will include groups from Astronomy, Meteorology, Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Electrical Engineers and Space Science. The project will also be used for undergraduate and graduate academic programs. Regular open houses will be conducted for high school students and undergraduate students belonging to institutions from all over Pakistan. It will also be used to cover live events for TV and media.
1. Introduction Astronomy is the queen of science and it encompasses the disciplines like physics, celestial mechanics, and mathematics. Muslims are considered to be the only community in the history of the mankind to interact with and depends upon astronomy to such an extent for both civil and religious purposes. They integrated the astronomical traditions of the Indians, Persians, and especially the Greeks from the 8th century onward. Greek work was translated by Muslim scholars in Arabic and they also added encyclopedias of their own. When Europe emerged from the "Dark Ages", Arabic works and the Arabic translations of Greek works were translated to Latin and Spanish. The Muslims carried out many observations that were contained in astronomical tables called “Zij”. It is pertinent to mention here that contributions to astronomy by Muslim scholars naturally included their contributions to mathematics and physics which are indispensable tools for the study of astronomy. For example, Muslims scholars had developed trigonometry, calculus, and geometry which are the cornerstones of solving problems in astronomy.
Department of Meteorology
COMSATS Institute of Information Technology
The Muslim mathematicians, especially Al-Battani, Abu'l-Wafa', Ibn Yunus and Ibn al-Haytham, also developed spherical astronomy. Euclidean and spherical geometry are particularly useful in studying the overall geometry of the Universe in the study of cosmology. The works of Ibn Sina, Abu'l-Barakat al-Baghdadi, Ibn Bajjah and others led to the development of the idea of impetus and momentum, principles in physics that are applied to motion of bodies in astronomy.
Another area that is important in astronomy is optics , , . It is very relevant in the development of tools for observation like telescopes that employ lenses or mirrors , , . One of the Muslim scholar Ibn al-Haytham studied the property of lenses, discovered the camera obscura, explained correctly the process of vision, studied the structure of the eye. No doubt, he is considered as the father of the modern optics.
2. History of Telescope The human imagination has never been a match for the universe. That is why astronomy, more than any other science, has been regularly revolutionized by new observational discoveries. Since 1610, these have depended on telescopes . When telescope technology was in development phase, as in the early 19th century, progress was slow. When technology surged, as in the late 20th century, progress was explosive. Optical and mechanical technology in the last few decades of the 19th century had advanced to the point that the construction of large telescopes was feasible . Most of these were associated with universities. In the early 1980's a series of innovations were introduced that made yet larger telescopes affordable, mainly by reducing the total weight per unit aperture. Astronomers today have access to almost the entire cosmic electromagnetic spectrum ranging from radio waves at the long wavelength end to gamma rays at the short wavelength end , , . All of the devices for detecting EM waves are called "telescopes," even though some (e.g. radio antennas) look nothing like classical optical telescopes , .
A growing number of Internet Automated telescopes are now being deployed and operated around the world. Such telescopes, in a few minutes, can take images , . Literally hundreds of images per night can be acquired by such telescopes with good detectors and a 0.35 meter (14 inch) telescope. In addition, such images, when stored in a good data base, can be used by scientists and students all over Pakistan and when the observer allows the images to be shared with others these can be used all over the world. Such systems are now working at a number of Global HOU sites, including Perth & Townsville Australia, Hawaii, Jackson Mississippi, and soon at Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin, USA, and many others sites in future . Since there is no fully functional Observatory in Pakistan (a couple exist but function very limited), COMSATS Astronomical Observatory at CIIT, Islamabad will be the Pakistan’s first ever completely equipped Astronomical Observatory with high-tech international Standards.
3. Objectives Astronomical Observatory at COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT), Islamabad, is an educational program that will enable researchers and students from all over the country to investigate the Universe while applying tools and concepts from science, math, and technology. Using the Internet facility the observatory will be linked with Global Hands On Universe (GHOU) participants around the world, request observations from an automated telescope, download images from a large image archive, and analyze them with the aid of user-friendly image processing software. Now GHOU is growing in 18 nations including Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Poland, Russia, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States and now Pakistan. By installing the state of the art Telescope for Astronomical observations, Pakistan would also be standing among 18 nations of the world. This would help Pakistan to conduct research and share the Astronomical data with other 18 countries and thus giving us an edge in the field of Astronomy over neighboring countries.
The overall objectives of this work are to establish an Astronomical Observatory at CIIT, Islamabad campus. In addition, the observatory will be linked with GHOU using internet facility. The observatory will be used to monitor various astronomical events and will keep data for future references and research activities. Thus, the data base will be used for research activities in the fields of, High-precision Astrometry, Understanding physical nature of celestial objects, Structure of the universe, Monitoring and observing gamma ray bursts to locate black holes, Understanding dark matter and dark energy, Search for stellar nurseries to locate new solar systems and Asteroids & Comets search and tracking etc.
4. Astronomical Observatory The astronomical observatory at CIIT will consist of state of the art equipments including telescope, CCD camera and Image processing software. The working of the telescope is very simple. The focus of the C14 makes it a very comfortable telescope for most people to use. No ladders are required to reach the eyepiece. Spring-loaded right ascension and declination worm block assemblies can be engaged for near zero backlashes, or disengaged for adjusting payload balance. A large access hole permits the addition of custom cables through the mount. Two 9 kg (20 lbs.) counterweights are provided. Latitude wedge can be adjusted from 15º to 58º. The azimuth can be adjusted to ± 4º. The Paramount ME has a precision 11-inch azimuth adjustment "bearing" for easy polar alignment , , , . A current preferred building design is one that could go on top of a building (a roof of an existing or new building) or one that could stand by itself, but presumably behind some security barrier, to protect it from intruders of various sorts. Experience has shown that telescope domes are somewhat unreliable, and are another moving part to fix .
The complete networking of the telescopes will make it possible for the participants to observe the entire sky with ease. They can open their domes each clear evening and close them again after every successful night or when their weather stations tell them to react to changing weather conditions. Since the world is rotating around its axis, it is either daytime or inclement weather in some places, so the idea of an online robotic Astronomical Observatory will be benefited all over the globe. Thus, the observatory will not only be used from its own campus but due to its fully automated and networked components, it could also be operated through internet anywhere in Pakistan and from the world. This means that the observatory will enable its users to do research even if there is daytime in Pakistan or the weather has blocked the night-sky by sharing time with other automated telescopes of the world.
It is envisaged that Astronomical Observatory at CIIT, Islamabad, would be an important and useful educational program that will enable researchers and students from all over the country to investigate the Universe while applying tools and concepts from science, math, and technology. Furthermore, its linkage with Global Hands On Universe (GHOU) would permit researchers to download images from a large image archive, and analyze them with the aid of user-friendly image processing software. It is also expected that the observatory will attract media attention by itself. Islamic astronomers in the past have surveyed the heavens for centuries and now it is time that we return to a scholarly pursuit of such knowledge and wisdom.
This is what professional astronomers call "remote observing", where practically the same commands and functions can be used as if one were physically at the telescope , , , , , , . Since telescopes nowadays are run by highly complicated computer systems, sometimes it's hard to notice the difference between really being at the telescope (albeit in a brightly lit computer room filled with monitors, keyboards, and mice) or being someplace else. This mode will be reserved for a few heavy-duty researchers and their students who need full control of the telescope and its systems and can be trusted to know exactly what they are doing with a million rupees worth of high-tech equipment. Furthermore, an internet connection would make this project as "browser-based" remote-observing which some clients with the proper permission and training will be able to do from the comfort of their classroom, or office. One will be able to move, point, and focus the telescope and take images more-or-less at will during the period one has control of the entire system. For obvious security reasons, the amount of control is much more restricted as compared with the previous mode.
5. Conclusion Thus, millions of Pakistani students are now studying Astronomy in their Textbooks. The next obvious step is their need for astronomical equipment. COMSATS Astronomical Observatory will be the first and only observatory to materialize their dreams and to encourage them to do their own research. Furthermore, by joining the GHOU Pakistan would be sharing the Astronomical data with other part of the world and can share the advance research in the field of Astronomy. Similarly, since there is no standard Astronomical observatory in Pakistan, our media have to rely on the international media to track events taking place in the Universe. This results in an unorganized and sometimes wrongly interpreted astronomical research and celestial events to our researchers, students and general public. This observatory will also fill such gap.
There is a huge potential for scientific projects for the scientists which includes Gamma ray bursts, Asteroid searches and observations, Finding extra solar planets, Research on binary star systems, Supernova light curves and Variable quasars
Since COMSATS Astronomical Observatory would be a completely robotic observatory, it would be networked all over the world by ever growing number of other robotic observatories. Hence it would be used by astronomers all over the world for their research. Due to the time differences around the globe, students and teachers would be able to use COMSATS Astronomical Observatory in their classrooms for research projects. COMSATS Astronomical Observatory would be able to sell the time of the observatory to literally anyone who has a simple PC with an internet connection.
COMSATS Astronomical Observatory will be the center for Astronomy education and research in Pakistan and would have the potential to provide world class equipment for original astronomical research for astronomers of the whole country. There are many opportunities for the expansion of this project within Pakistan. For example, teachers and students at all levels, all over Pakistan would come and learn about real Astronomy research. COMSATS will also provide training for the staff members of other Universities at the observatory in future. Similarly, other government and private science institutions can also be connected and benefited from the facilities at observatory. Electronic and Print media must be involved by organizing seminars, conferences and workshops at the COMSATS. Live Astronomy sessions at TV channels would have an immense effect too. With the success of this project, other optical and radio observatories can be built in the similar way at many other campuses of COMSATS.
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