One of the goals of the Iranian National Observatory is to create an astronomical platform at Mount Gargash and expand the site through the addition of various observational facilities. Therefore, with the launch of the scientific operation of this site, the first observational facility was installed this summer in the INO observational site.
The facility, called INOLA (INO Lens Array), has been designed and developed by the INO technology development division (TDD). The initial installation and initialization of the system began in May 2018 and since then the TDD team has done a variety of tasks and tests on the facility. It should be noted that since INOLA is not a ready-made telescope, it is necessary to test every single part of the system software and hardware in various environmental and observational conditions. This is to make sure that while all instruments are safe at all times, the quality of the acquired data is indeed the best that can be.
Due to the specific physical configuration of the array and the arrangement of the lenses, one of the first tasks that was done was to correct and optimize the system’s pier to achieve the ideal precision in pointing and tracking the targets. Other activities done at this stage included configuring the array to achie optimal equilibrium conditions in all orientation modes as well as providing a dedicated model for tracking the array path in the sky.
The INOLA facility will enable observation of very low surface brightness objects. Among many strengths of the system which will make this happen is that first, the lenses are aligned to a very high accuracy. Also, there is a very small difference in the field of view of the lenses so that the observer can simultaneously observe the same field in two or three different filters B, V, R filters. Furthermore, by looking at the common parts of the images produced by the lenses, it will be possible to detect and correct optical errors to a great degree. At the moment, the field of view of the three lenses overlap over 95%.
Another notable feature of this system is that it has a dedicated remote control room for controlling the system and monitoring of the environmental conditions. The INO TDD team has also designed and developed the necessary software environments for working with this system. These environments include proposal submission, providing a list of objects and prioritization for performing observations, environmental control system, performing automatic observation, system databases, and etc. The system also has an initial pipeline which allows the observer to immediately check the quality of the data received as soon as the observation session has been completed.
The system received its first light September 2018 and is now going through the commissioning phase. Several tests are currently being done on the array as a result of which the team tries to achieve the highest quality in the output data.