PIRATE: A Remotely Operable Telescope for Research and Education

Holmes, Stefan (2013). PIRATE: A Remotely Operable Telescope for Research and Education. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f118


This thesis introduces PIRATE, a remotely operable telescope facility for use in research and education, constructed from off-the-shelf hardware, operated by the Open University. It focuses on the PIRATE Mark 1 and PIRATE Mark 1.5 phases of operation; the telescope facility has been in the Mark 2 phase since September 2011. Situated at the Observatori Astronomic de Mallorca, PIRATE is currently used to follow up potential transiting extrasolar planet candidates produced by the SuperWASP North experiment, as well as to hunt for novae in M31 and other nearby galaxies. It is operated by a mixture of commercially available software and proprietary software. In this thesis I discuss the hardware and its characterisation, problems with performing precision time-series photometry when using a German Equatorial Mount, and the PIRATE pipeline developed to assist with the fast and effective production of results from the follow-up observations of potential transiting extrasolar planets. I then go on to discuss the logistics of the follow-up program, and present the results from the PIRATE Mark 1 and 1.5 follow-up data, followed by the results from observational work on known transiting systems (such as WASP-12b). A discussion of areas for improvement and possible avenues for future work concludes the thesis.

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