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An Asteroid Impact Warning System
Dr. John Tonry, Institute for Astronomy at University of Hawaii

The ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) Optical Tube Assembly enters a final testing phase at DFM Engineering.

Dr. John Tonry (Institute for Astronomy at University of Hawaii), Principle Investigator with the DFM Engineering designed and built ATLAS Optical Tube Assembly (shown supported by a test fixture in photo to the right).

The 110 mega pixel CCD science camera is located at the prime focus position.

Water cooling hoses and cables can be seen behind Dr. Tonry's arm.

The staff at DFM Engineering prepared the ATLAS #1 OTA for a testing procedure incorporating the actual camera and one of the filters that will be used in the data gathering research project.

The telescope was setup in the parking lot for star testing.

Dr. Frank Melsheimer shown with the ATLAS OTA.

The dark rectangle, at the top of the instrument, is the full aperture shutter.

The upper tube (the smaller diameter cylinder) houses the 20-inch diameter Schmidt corrector.

The main tube contains the prime focus camera, the 3-element field corrector, and the 26-inch diameter mirror.

The 8-position filter changer is the box on top of the main tube.

The camera is a modified Schmidt camera with a 1-m focal length and a very fast focal ratio of F/2.

The University of Hawaii's CCD science camera provides a 7.5-degree (across the diagonal) field of view.

The focus housing is located at the bottom of the main tube.

At the bottom of the main tube is the focus housing which also supports the smart controller for the focus, the filter changer, and the shutter motions.

It also supports power supplies for the science CCD camera.

A View Inside the ATLAS Optical Tube Assembly

The view inside the ATLAS Optical Tube Assembly shows the 110-mega pixel CCD prime focus camera, the insulated cooling hoses, and the cables.

The upper tube assembly with the Schmidt corrector lens and the full aperture shutter has been removed allowing access to install the camera.

The integration of the camera with its controller, power supply, hoses, and cables was performed by DFM Engineering.

Normally, integration of telescope instruments is performed after the telescope is installed and can require more than a year to complete.

With the integration performed at the DFM Engineering factory, the system will be ready to perform science soon after installation.

First Light : Polaris



Polaris is near the center of the field and saturates the CCD camera causing the vertical streak.

The Earth's rotation causes the stars to trail in circular arcs.

The field of view is about 5.3-degrees by 5.3-degrees. The F/2 optical system was designed to produce excellent images across the entire field of view.

Satellite Path: Across the ATLAS Field of View

During the testing procedures, a satellite passed through the ATLAS field of view from top right to lower left. The vibration is from the test fixture.

ATLAS is an asteroid impact early warning system being developed by the Research Corporation, University of Hawaii and funded by NASA.

ATLAS Project

The ATLAS project's Haleakala and Mauna Loa sites are complete and ready for the installation of the DFM Engineering designed and built ATLAS optical tube assemblies. Each site has a 16.5-ft. Ash dome, concrete pier, loft, storage, computers and essential electronics.

Full robotic operation of both telescopes, including automatic reporting to the Minor Planet Center by early 2016 is the plan.

Telescope construction is progressing steadily at DFM Engineering with expected delivery and installation of ATLAS #1 on Haleakala at the end of May and ATLAS #2 somewhat later.


For additional information, please see the following links:

Falling Star: How ATLAS works by John Tonry

Space News: Inside Outer Space by Leonard David