Project Solaris is a global network of telescopes consisting of four fully autonomous observatories located in the Republic of South Africa (Solaris-1 and -2), Australia (Solaris-3), and Argentina (Solaris-4). The headquarters and main database are located in Toruń, Poland.
Each observatory consists of a telescope with a primary mirror of 0.5 m diameter, installed on a modified German equatorial mount from Astrosysteme Austria and equipped with a fast and precise direct drives and high-resolution rotary-pulsing encoders. The Solaris-3 telescope is a Schmidt-Cassegrain f/9 optical system with corrector, the rest of telescopes are Ritchey-Cretien f/15 optical systems.
For imaging we use professional grade Andor Icon-L CCD cameras with a resolution of 2048 x 2048 pixels, thermoelectrically cooled to -70 ° C. The filter wheels allow for multi-color photometry in ten bands: U, B, V, R, I (Johnson), and u’, g’, y’ and z’ (Sloan).
The field of view of Solaris-3 is 21′ x 21′, and of the other telescopes 13′ x 13′. Each observatory is equipped with advanced safety and emergency systems, as well as meteorological equipment enabling fully autonomous operation. The whole system is managed by a dedicated specialized software suite that controls the network 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Solaris network is a unique scientific venture in Poland.
Model: Andor iKon-L 939
The camera is equipped with a light-sensitive Charge Coupled Device (CCD), which allows to record two-dimensional images (called CCD frames). To achieve the highest possible precision of measuring the brightness of stars, the CCD is cooled to -70°C. The cooling system is based on Peltier modules and an advanced control system. The camera resolution is 2048 x 2048 pixels. Each pixel has dimensions of 13.5 x 13.5 um.
Model: Finger Lakes Instrumentation CFW3-12-R
The filter wheel is located in front of the CCD camera and allows to record images of stars in different color bands. Multi-color photometry is an important tool in observational astrophysics. Solaris telescopes are using Johnson U, B, V, R, I, and Sloan u’, g’, y’ and z’ filters. Filters have a diameter of 50 mm and are placed in a rotating wheel. A stepper motor positions the wheel so that the selected filter is located on the optical axis of the telescope.
Model: Astrosysteme Austria Field Rotator
The field rotator is located in front of the filter wheel and enables rotation of both – the camera and the filter wheel – around the optical axis of the telescope.
Model: Astrosysteme Austria (Ritchey-Cretien f/15 or Schmidt Cassegrain f/9), ASA DDM160 mount
The telescope is mounted on a modified German equatorial mount equipped with two rotary axes driven by synchronous motors. High-resolution rotary encoders and an advanced control system allow to point the telescope at a given target on the sky. Stars and other objects (e.g. satellites, asteroids) can be tracked by the telescope with a speed corresponding to their apparent motion on the sky. The telescope is equipped with mirror covers protecting the main mirror when it is not observing and a focusing mechanism.
Model: Alnikat FlatMan XL
The flat field screen is used to calibrate the camera, shutter, and the optical system of the telescope. Evenly illuminated with controlled intensity, it allows to detect impurities and defects in the optics of the telescope, camera and filters, which then must be reduced in the data analysis process.
The weather station provides information about temperature, cloud base and precipitation. It is an essential element of the meteorological system ensuring the safety of the equipment during observations. The station is connected directly to the dome controller for high robustness.
Model: Vaisala WXT-520
The main weather station provides information about temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed and direction and precipitation. Data from the weather station is processed by the control computer, which decides if the observations are possible or not.
The rack cabinet contains all the components necessary to operate the observatory: uninterruptible power supplies, manageable power distribution units, network infrastructure components, control computer and remote console.
The safety system oversees the operation of the observatory and controls ventilation and air conditioning systems. It also allows for an emergency shutdown of the observatory.
Model: Unisar FlatMount
The manipulator is used to lift the calibration screen during the calibration process and to lower it after completing the procedure so that it does not interfere with the telescope’s field of view during regular observations.
Each dome is equipped with an air conditioner, which ensures that proper temperature and humidity are maintained in the dome and rack cabinet.
A monochrome IP-camera allows to view and record what is happening inside the dome from any location at any time.
The GPS antenna cooperates with the time card installed in a rack cabinet. It allows to record the time of opening and closing of the CCD camera’s shutter with microsecond precision.
The electric switchboard is fitted with circuit breakers and surge protectors.
Model: SBIG All-Sky 360 with 2PiSky Cloud Detection System
The fisheye camera allows to record images of the entire sky. The 2PiSky system automatically analyzes the images. If clouds are detected, relevant information is sent to the control computer.