Incorporation of distinct telescopes into larger coordinated networks can enhance their discovery and follow-up capacity. However, challenges still remain in scaling, deploying, organizing, and scheduling such networks.
A Chinese-French joint team from the Space Variable Object Monitor (SVOM) mission developed an Automatic Observation Management (AOM) system to incorporate individual facilities with different telescope sizes, photometry parameters, and control techniques into a well-organized network.
The first observation network that has adopted AOM is the Ground-Based Wide-Angle Cameras Network (GWAC-N), a network of multiple types of robotic optical telescopes under the framework of the SVOM mission. It is currently located at the Xinglong Observatory of the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC). It is comprised of two wide FoV GWAC telescopes, two 60-cm telescopes (GWAC-F60A/B) and one 30-cm telescope (GWAC-F30).
With AOM, the GWAC-N obtained better sky coverage and detection performance, enabling multiple tasks, including: large-sample surveys, follow-up observation of Gamma-Ray Bursts and Gravitational Waves, the detection of optical transients, variable and periodic objects, and moving objects.
AOM can perform complex observations with ten observation modes and 175 strategies. It also works with a high duty cycle and stable behavior. It scheduled an average of 1,500 targets and produced 600 observation plans per clear night in December 2020.
According to simulations, a ten-telescope network could handle the working load of 100,000 targets in eight seconds with AOM. This result ensures that AOM can be adapted to the largest and busiest worldwide, general purpose, telescope networks.
In the next two years, the complete GWAC-N will be installed at two observatories. The number of telescopes in the GWAC-N will be extended to nine GWAC-A telescopes and five 60-cm class telescopes.
More external telescopes are also foreseen to join the network. With its modular design, the AOM is scientifically and technically viable for other general-purpose telescope networks.