The E152 telescope in the Chilean Atacama Desert is in Czech use

The new spectrograph PLATOSpec that will be installed on the E152 telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile will search for new exoplanets in collaboration with the European Space Agency’s TESS and PLATO space missions, but will also make new discoveries in the field of stellar astronomy. PLATOSpec will be fully operational in the second half of 2023. The E152 telescope, which has not been used for almost twenty years and has suitable parameters, is now again in operation. Work is also underway on the predecessor of the PLATOSpec spectrograph, which should be available as early as this summer.

The Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic is the leading institution involved in the commissioning of the telescope. The first phase of the project – the successful modernization of the E152 telescope, which was completed on April 8, 2022 by the Czech company ProjectSoft HK, a.s. directly at La Silla Observatory – is now coming to the end. The E152 telescope was one of the first telescopes originally installed at La Silla Observatory in the second half of the 1960s. It was used for cataloging of tens of thousands of stars in our galaxy and many other discoveries until its decommissioning in 2003.

The E152 telescope in the dome. Photo: Z. Bardon

In 2019, it was decided that E152 telescope could be successfully reconstructed. In early 2022, after the covid pandemic subsided, the company ProjectSoft HK, a.s. could finally start the work on the site in Atacama Desert in Chile, where the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory is located. But the works on site were preceded by a year of preparation of control systems and programming of new procedures for telescope control at the company’s headquarters in Hradec Králové. In the meantime, the Astronomical Institute of the ASCR was preparing a new spectrograph and coordinating the entire project with the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

The first old electrical cables of the E152 telescope wiring were removed on February 10, 2022, and the telescope moved again with the new control system on March 24, 2022. The test phase took place at the turn of March and April, and now the telescope is fully automated and equipped with new systems that allow remote control of the telescope and the dome. At the Observatory of the Astronomical Institute of the ASCR in Ondřejov, a control workplace for observation with this telescope has already been prepared. On April 3, the E152 telescope was successfully handed over to the Astronomical Institute of the ASCR. The test phase and installation of the PLATOSpec spectrograph will now take place.

PLATOSpec is an example of successful cooperation between Czech science and Czech industry. After all, this is symbolically shown by the waving Czech flag above the dome building of the newly commissioned telescope in excellent observation conditions in the middle of the Atacama Desert.


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