We would like to congratulate the Open University (OU) who was recently announced as one of the winners of the prestigious 2023 Queen's Anniversary Prize for their OpenSTEM (Science, Technology Engineering & Mathematics) Labs. These online distance learning laboratories allow students to undertake and participate in experimental work at any time 24/7 remotely from anywhere in the world and cover topics including computing, health and astronomy. The prizes are granted biennially by the UK Monarch and are the highest national honor awarded in Higher Education in recognition of world-class excellence and achievement.
The OU operate two robotic observatories at the Observatorio del Teide on the island of Tenerife as part of its OpenSTEM Labs initiative called
- COAST (COmpletely Autonomous Service Telescope),
- and PIRATE (the Physics Innovations Robotic Telescope Explorer) which we are proud to support.
These are used for OU teaching and astronomical research including monitoring of variable sources, exoplanet studies and near-earth asteroids.
Both observatory facilities use PlaneWave Corrected Dall-Kirkham (CDK) optical telescopes; COAST has a PlaneWave CDK17 (17"/430mm aperture) telescope with PIRATE having a PlaneWave CDK24 (24"/610mm aperture). Each telescope is mounted on a 10Micron GM4000 German Equatorial mount and housed in a Baader AllSky dome. For imaging purposes, both telescopes are fitted with FLI CCD cameras and filterwheels and Baader broad/narrowband and photometric filters. The telescopes can be remotely accessed by students for real-time operation using powerful, but easy to use observatory control and data acquisition software called ABOT by Sybilla Technologies that also supports fully autonomous queue scheduling.
You can read more about the observatory and its 2021 upgrade to its current state here.
- Queen’s Anniversary Prize Award Winners and information:
- Open University OpenSTEM Labs:
- OpenScience Observatories:
About the author: Lee Sproats
Dr. Lee Sproats has been interested in astronomy since watching Star Wars in 1977 and has appeared on the UK Sky at Night TV programme. He then went on to study Astronomy where he obtained a degree and then a PhD in the subject at University College London/Mullard Space Science Laboratory. He has worked in Australia in radio astronomy and used optical/infrared telescopes on Hawaii and La Palma and Lowell and Kitt Peak observatories in the USA. After working for the University of Surrey to promote the use of computers for teaching in UK higher education and then as an IT trainer for a stock market company, he went on to work for Greenwich Observatory Ltd where he ran their northern branch and then worked for David Hinds Ltd dealing with our and Celestron products. He is often involved in flight excursions that take passengers to observe the northern lights, has led trips to see the great USA 2017 eclipse near Hopkinsville and was lead astronomer onboard a specially chartered 737 to view the 2015 total solar eclipse at 38,000ft. Lee`s astronomical interests include Lunar observing, astrophotography, photometry and pro-am collaborations.
Since David Hinds stopped operation in December 2020, Dr. Sproats works for Baader Planetarium as our UK representative/consultant and is responsible for looking after our UK/Eire dealers, dealing with Baader Planetarium/PlaneWave/10Micron product support, writing articles and also is involved in our large telescope and observatory instrumentation projects.