Automated Telescope for Optical Monitoring
Image of ATOM
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ATOM project webpages

Project description

This activity is one part of the participation of LSW at the H.E.S.S.-project. See this page for a detailed description of our activities concerning H.E.S.S.

ATOM is a 75cm telescope working in a fully automated way, i.e. do its complete work -- including scheduling and data analysis -- without human attendance. ATOM is part of the H.E.S.S.-project and serves as:

  • an automatic optical monitor of variable gamma-ray sources,
  • an automatic optical monitor of potential H.E.S.S. targets, and
  • a transmission monitor to help calibrate the Cherenkov shower image analysis.
The automatisation of the telescope was done as a collaboration between Heidelberg State Observatory and Hamburg Observatory.


ATOM is a 75cm altazimuth telescope operated by the Heidelberg State Observatory (LSW).

The telescope was built by Carl Zeiss GmbH as a testing prototype for computer controlled altazimuthal mounting. For a decade, it was operated at LSW and used for many astronomical projects. In preparing for the start of the H.E.S.S.-project, it became apparent that multifrequency observations would best be conducted on-site, resulting in a project to robotize and relocate the telescope.

While the mechanical components only required a modest redesign for automatic operations, the entire control electronics were replaced, following the strategies used for automatisation of the OLT. In particular, all ATOM motors are operated using industrial approved PLC, resulting in a very stable system.

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