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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Dome is home to robotic telescope
The dome for the robotic telescope.
The dome for the telescope is lowered into place
A project to give amateur astronomers access to a deep-space telescope via their home computers has begun at the University of Glamorgan in Pontypridd.

The tallest building on the campus has taken on a new-millennium look since a white, space-age dome was hoisted on to its top to house the telescope.

The construction work is
Dr Mark Brake
Dr Mark Brake at the University of Glamorgan
the first stage of the scheme to set up the only robotic telescope sited in the UK.

It will allow would-be star gazers to use the internet to direct the 16-inch mirror telescope and then receive the pictures obtained on their computer at home.

The 70,000, 4.5m-high dome, which was hoisted into place on the campus's G Block building on Saturday in a two-hour operation using a crane, was shipped from Australia.

The only other similar machine available to the public - though with much more limited access - is on the Spanish island of Tenerife.

The weekend work was part of the University of Glamorgan's Roccoto - Robotic Cyberspace Community Telescope Observatory - project.

The observatory is atop the tallest building on the Pontypridd campus, which itself is on the side of a hill some 110m above sea level.
The telescope's website.
The telescope's website is already up.

It will provide schoolchildren, students and amateur astronomers with access to facilities and images normally available only to professionals.

The new-look skyline of the south Wales Valleys is easily visible from the A470.

Dr Mark Brake, 42, is chair of earth and space science at the Univerity of Glamorgan, Wales's only independent university campus, and is leading the project to install the Californian-made telescope.

He said the positioning of the dome was a landmark both in terms of the development of the project and as a visual reference point for the local community.

Public access

"The telescope will be built and calibrated over the next few weeks, the process of making it ready will begin," he said.

"It will be a research-grade instrument dedicated to public access.

"It is very visual. We have even thought of flood-lighting it when it is not being used."

Further public-access robotic telescopes are planned for Hawaii and Australia as part of a world-wide scheme to encourage the study of astronomy in schools.

Astromony is one of the most popular community courses at the campus, which is not part of the University of Wales, with around 200 associate students in ten community study centres.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Nick Palit reports
"Any member of the public will be able to access space with the telescope"
See also:

28 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Spaceguard UK opens observatory
12 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
British astronomy faces shake-up
22 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Astronomers want bigger telescopes
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