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Rapid Response Telescope for Gama Ray Burst Detection


Dr. Elisa Barney Smith
Dr. Scott Smith
Dr. John Gardner
Dr. Daryl Macomb

Funding Source:

This project was funded by grants from NASA-EPSCoR through the NASA Idaho Space Grants Consortium (ISGC).


University of Idaho Physics Department
Boise State Physics Department
Boise State Physics Mechanical Engineering Department
NASA Goddard Space Center



The universe is very large and our understanding of it is very small. Scientists rely on observations made usually from great distances to see what is happening in other parts of the solar system or the universe. This can lead to greater general knowledge as well as occasionally to knowledge of our own planet.

Rapid Reaction Telescope (RRT) for Detection and Analysis of Gamma Ray Bursts (GRB)

The central idea is to implement a very rapid reaction mount and optics for detection of fast celestial transients, especially gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). Research to accomplish this will consist of selection or design of the following major items:

  • IR sensors
  • telescope mounts
  • a control algorithm for the telescope mount
  • algorithms for processing the image to remove any distortions from the lens, for GRB detection and tracking.
    During all of this, the
  • interconnection of subsystems and
  • communications between subsystems and with the GRB notification network will need to be configured.
    Then at the end
  • analysis of the data by astrophysicists will follow.

We designed and fabricated a telescope fork. This was connected up to the control protocols we have developed and the theoretical accelerations were compared with the measured ones. We used direct drive/hydraulic motors for moving the telescope mount.

We connected to the GRB Coordinates Network and develop interface software to receive the notifications and start the motion sequence in the telescope mount.

A survey of the literature of star detection and tracking methods will be conducted. A preliminary design of the whole system interconnections will be made. This will give us a good overview of the system needs and enough information to determine what will be involved in fully designing and building such a RRT. These system specs will be used to apply for further follow-on funding to actually do the system design and build the telescope.

GRB Image Processing

Image processing will be implemented for image enhancement or correction, verification of telescope position, and transient detection. Image enhancement or correction may include motion compensation or removal of lens distortion. Current work is being done on verification of telescope position. This involves comparing the telescope-acquired image against a portion of the star catalog which is larger, but coincident with, the acquired image. Development of this method may include image scaling, rotation, and matching. Once the acquired image has been processed appropriately and telescope position confirmed, it will be compared with the star catalog to determine the presence of a GRB.


Darin Dutson, “Image Alignment Method For Matching A Telescope Image With A Star Catalog“, Masters Project, Masters of Science in Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Boise State University, May 2005.