The Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia and the State Agency Spanish Research Council (IAA-CSIC) have deployed the BOOTES Network, the first network of robotic telescopes with stations on five continents. With installations in Spain (two stations), New Zealand, China, Mexico, South Africa and Chile, it constitutes the most complete network of its kind and a unique and fully automated resource for combining data from instruments around the world, monitoring the sky and supporting observations from missions and satellites.
In a collaborative partnership, the University of College Dublin (UCD), the University of Free University (UFS), and the State Agency Spanish Research Council (CSIC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2022 to build BOOTES-6, a BOOTES (Burst Observer and Optical Transient Exploring System) telescope network, at the Boyden site in Bloemfontein, South Africa. BOOTES-6 was one of the last two observatories installed to complete the network, with the last one (BOOTES-7) commissioned in December 2022 at Atacama, Chile.
Furthermore, the BOOTES network works with satellites and is expected to advance the study and investigation of gamma-ray bursts, events connected with the death of massive stars. In addition, the network of telescopes will monitor neutrino sources that give off gravitational waves and track space junk, debris and objects in outer space.
Since 2006, Dr Antonio Martin-Carrillo, Assistant Professor, University College Dublin (UCD) and Professor Lorraine Hanlon, Director for Centre of Space Research UCD and Professor of Astronomy UCD, created and operated the Watcher robotic telescope at Boyden Observatory in South Africa.
According to Professor Hanlon, with the BOOTES-6 telescope as part of the BOOTES network, scientists can efficiently monitor the night skies and capture fading lights.
“The installation of BOOTES-6 alongside UCD’s Watcher robotic telescope at Boyden gives us a great opportunity to continue to advance our research projects. Both telescopes have almost identical equipment, allowing us to combine their observations easily. By having two telescopes at the same observatory, we can implement more efficient ways of following up gamma-ray bursts and searching for the optical counterparts of gravitational waves. In addition, being part of the BOOTES network provides us with a unique opportunity of having full coverage of the night sky and the ability to monitor astrophysical sources almost uninterruptedly.” Dr Antonio Martin-Carrillo commented.
Furthermore, Professor Castro-Tirado, a research professor at IAA-CSIC, stated the BOOTES network has four stations in the northern and three in the southern hemispheres. In addition, there will be a telescope stationed in the northern and southern skies to detect transient sources. With all stations fully operational, they will be coordinated as a single observatory monitoring the Earth.
“The complete deployment represents a scientific milestone since it is the first robotic network with a presence on all continents.” Professor Castro-Tirado commented.
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