Location and site

The New Robotic Telescope (NRT) will be co-located with the current Liverpool Telescope (LT) at Observatory Roque de los Muchachos (ORM) on the Canary Island of La Palma. The site has an altitude of 2396 metres (7861 feet) and was established in 1985. It currently hosts 15 telescopes covering solar, optical and Gamma-ray astronomy, with the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) being built on ORM over the coming years.

lapalma_map Image credit IAC

The proposed site for construction is the disused Carlsberg Meridian Telescope (CMT) site, close to the William Herschel Telescope (WHT). La Palma is an ideal location for the NRT as it is one of the best sites in the Northern Hemisphere.

  • The high altitude and laminar airflow means that ORM has ~75% of clear nights per year.
  • The median seeing at the WHT is 0.80 arcseconds April-November.
  • Extinction is typically V~0.12 magnitude, higher in summer.
  • The sky brightness is B ~22.7, V ~21.9 and R~21.0 magnitude/arcsecond in the darkest conditions.

More information can be found on the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes website.

The presence of the LT affords many advantages as the site is familiar to the LT team and co-location simplifies logistics, there is already an established workshop at the LT site and the former CMT site has existing infrastructure in place. The collaboration with the IAC is vital, and our connections with existing Spanish construction and utilities companies allow a smoother progression through the project.

The La Palma location will be complementary to the specialized observing roles being adopted by the ING telescopes. The new instrument, WEAVE (multi-object spectrograph for the WHT), will deliver statistically complete catalogues of object populations of which the NRT could perform follow-up of variable sources and the rare objects not well suited to the massively multiplexed WEAVE model. The NRT will play a key role in monitoring the Northern transient sky (many sources of transients are all sky: Gaia, gravitational wave candidates from aLIGO/Virgo, Gamma-ray Bursts or Northern hemisphere: Zwicky Transient Factory, Cherenkov Telescope Array-North, IceCUBE etc). La Palma is also sufficiently equatorial that many Large Synoptic Survey Telescope targets will be visible for ~4-6 hours per night. Co-location on La Palma with the GOTO gravitational wave counterpart finder and the current LT (which we plan to transition to a wide field survey/transient detection machine) also adds value. The La Palma site therefore offers considerable scientific synergies and opportunities, combined with its logistical and cost advantages due to its relatively nearby location and well developed existing infrastructure.