The APO 3.5-m Remote Observing Program— Present and Future
The Apache Point Observatory (APO) 3.5-m telescope is a principal model of a modem telescope used primarily on a shared-night, remote-observing basis. After nearly a decade of scientifically successful remote operation, the Astrophysical Research Consortium, builder and owner of the telescope, is examining the role by which this university-owned instrument can best serve in the coming years its constituency and astronomy at large. Various “niche” scientific capabilities are described, including fast-response observations of transient phenomena, synoptic observing programs, reactive queue-scheduled observations, temporal study programs, plus providing a capable test bed for new instruments.
While specialized uses of the telescope offer potential for important scientific discovery, traditional observing capabilities need to be sustained for the ongoing and future research programs of a majority of the consortium astronomers and students, a large and diverse community. Determining the appropriate balance between the “unique and specialized” versus the “bread-and-butter” observing models is discussed, as is the role hands-on remote observing can play in support of the various paradigms.
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