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OpenTel - An Open Network for Robotic Telescopes


Global networks of robotic telescopes provide important advantages over single telescopes. Independent of daytime and weather, they can more efficiently perform multiwavelength observations and continuous long-term monitoring, as well as react rapidly to transient events such as GRBs and supernovas. Some networks already exist or are about to be built. Certainly, the larger the network, the more efficient. Unfortunately, building these networks is expensive and resources are limited. However, with the number of currently existing robotic telescopes a very powerful network could already be built.

This is the idea of OpenTel. OpenTel provides the means for interconnecting single robotic telescopes to a global network for sharing observation time, observation programs and data. OpenTel is an open network. Open means open standards, open source and open for telescopes to join.


Grid technology provides an ideal framework. It provides solutions for the management of Virtual Organizations, grid resources, computational jobs and observation, data and metadata. In addition, it allows the immediate access to computational and storage resources for data analysis.
OpenTel aims at common interfaces for monitoring, scheduling and data exchange. These design goals are provided by grid architecture as illustrated in Fig. 1 below. Metadata related to telescopes and observations is stored in the central information service Stellaris. This information is then used for selecting the best  telescopes when scheduling new observations. The architecture is built on two technologies: the grid middleware of the Globus Toolkit and the Remote Telescope Markup Language (RTML) for the exchange of observation requests.

Fig. 1:
Grid architecture of the robotic telescope network. Telescope servers, scheduler and the information service Stellaris are the main components. The management of observation requests is done through the Globus Toolkit and using RTML. Metadata is submitted in RDF to Stellaris and retrieved using the SPARQL query language.

Robotic Telescopes of the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam (AIP)

With five robotic telescopes the AIP provides the first hardware to OpenTel. The five telescopes are RoboTel, STELLA-I and II, Wolfgang and Amadeus.
  • RoboTel is located at the AIP. It is a 0.8 m telescope equipped with a CCD camera for imaging and photometry. Besides its science core-program, half of the observation time is reserved for schools and universities. The remaining observation time is dedicated to testing of new instruments, software and methods for the STELLA-I and II telescopes.

  • The STELLA robotic observatory is located at the Teide observatory in Tenerife, Spain. It consists of two 1.2 m telescopes, STELLA-I and STELLA-II. STELLA-I is equipped with a spectrograph and has been operating since May 2006. STELLA-II will be equipped with an imaging photometer. It will be commissioned on the end of 2007. Scientific objectives are: Doppler imaging, the search for extrasolar planets, spectroscopic surveys and support observations for simultaneous observations with larger facilities.

  • Wolfgang and Amadeus are located at the Fairborn Observatory in Arizona. They are two 0.75 m telescopes equipped with photomultipliers for photometry. The scientific objectives are the participation in multi-site observing campaigns and studies of variability timescales and life times of starspots, requiring monitoring of stars over periods of years.

Project Deliverables:

Title Release Date
D2.4 (pdf)
Providing Static Metadata of Robotic Telescopes to Stellaris  2007-05-15
D2.7 (pdf)
Providing Dynamic Metadata of Robotic Telescopes to Stellaris  2008-04-29
D5.3 (pdf)
First Integration of Robotic Telescopes  2007-08-31
D5.5 (pdf)
A Broker for a Network of Robotic Telescopes  2008-05-02
D5.8 (pdf)
A Scheduler for a Network of Robotic Telescopes  2008-08-08


Contact Persons

We are interested in extending our network. If you are interested to particitpate or have questions about the software please contact: