Chris Graham is a long standing amateur astronomer with a keen interest in astrophotography. In 2005 he approached Council with an opportunity to collaborate in the use of a robotic telescope located in the United States using internet links. The U.S. location was subsequently replaced by one in Australia. In both instances Chris provided the telescope and imaging equipment and software while the RASCVC provided some setup expertise, operations labour and processing experience. It was a match that enabled both sides to learn a great deal about managing a remote telescope facility.
Remote access to dark skies via the Chris Graham Robotic Telescope (CGRT) has allowed the RASC to complement the “hands-on” local observing at the AOMO facility and interest a greater circle of members and public who are unable to travel to dark skies. Having had such a facility in the portfolio of RASC -VC resources has enhanced our services to local members and contribution to the community. The CGRT has served as an important training and development facility in collaboration with our partners, which include the H.R. Macmillan Space Centre, UBC, SFU and the Canadian Astronomical Data Centre (CADC) of the NRC. Lay persons and students have been invited to learn to use sophisticated telescope equipment and advanced robotic operations software. Captured data becomes available to all Canadians for study and processing via the CADC. Additionally, RASC Centres across Canada have also been invited to request project data capture from the CGRT.
Chris’ generous donations enabled Vancouver Centre to pay the site rental fees. Although our current arrangement will be suspended at the end of 2008, we are optimistic that there will be new opportunities in the future.