Robotic Ceiling Reveals Skies to Telescopes

Mark Trueblood of Sonoita, Ariz., brings us the robotic opening of the ceiling of the telescope array he manages in the desert. Everything is done by computer — so no one gets to stay up late and observe.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Today, the SoundClip comes from an astronomer in Arizona who doesn't have to be standing next to his telescope to make his observations.

Mr. MARK TRUEBLOOD (Astronomer, Arizona): I'm Mark Trueblood, and I operate the Winer Observatory. We're located about 50 miles southeast of Tucson, Arizona, near the town of Sonoita. After the sun sets, our computer rolls back the observatory roof.

(Soundbite of robotic observatory ceilings)

Mr. TRUEBLOOD: So the astronomer doesn't actually have to come here to make their observation. The computer then moves the telescope on to the next object that's on the schedule, and so a telescope operating in this way, in this robotic way, can make anywhere from 300 to 500 images in a night. All this occurs without anyone at the controls. These telescopes are robots doing their thing all night long.

(Soundbite of robotic observatory ceilings)

BLOCK: That's Mark Trueblood of Sonoita, Arizona, keeping an eye on the heavens remotely.

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