IACTEC Large Telescopes: New Robotic Telescope - NRT

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    The NRT (New Robotic Telescope) is a project to design and build the biggest robotic telescope in the world: a 4-meter diameter telescope that will operate in a completely autonomous way, an artificial intelligence able to take decisions.

    Despite its big size and weight, it will be a very fast telescope. After receiving a signal of alert, it will be able to point to any area of the sky within 30 seconds.

    The telescope will be located in one of the best astronomical observatories in the world, the Roque de los Muchachos observatory, in the Canary Island of La Palma. Specifically in the place where the old Carlsberg Meridian Telescope is right now.                                                                                                                                                                              

    NRT location

    All these characteristics will make of NRT a key telescope in the discoveries of what has been called time domain astronomy. Even though the Universe may seem static, there are many processes taking place hidden from our sight. For instance, there are gigantic explosions blasting off all around  us, liberating in a short time (from minutes to months) more energy than the Sun will liberate in its entire lifetime of  10 billion years. The NRT will be a fundamental telescope to study these phenomena.

    The University of Liverpool John Moores (LJMU), the University of Oviedo and the IAC are part of the consortium.

    The project requires important technological advances in various areas of optics, mechanics, electronics and software, in particular the development of a robust, reliable and efficient control system. With funding from the Government of the Canary Islands, in 2018 the first steps were taken for the creation of the technical team that will be responsible for articulating the participation of the IAC in the project. At present, the team is made up of highly specialized engineers in the areas of software, optics and systems. This group has worked in close contact with the LJMU and University of Oviedo teams and has had an outstanding participation in the preparation of the preliminary design presented in December 2021.

    The project is now in a new phase of development of the critical design of the telescope and instrumentation. It is estimated that the construction will be finished in five years.

    The innovative nature of the project, that can constitute reference standards in several aspects for future developments, fits perfectly with the objectives of IACTec.


    Principal investigator
    Co Principal investigator
    Project staff
    Former members
    Sandra Benítez Herrera
    Asier Oria Carreras
    Pablo Alberto Fuerte Rodríguez
    Alfredo García Piñero
    Ricardo Luis de Matos Teles
    Sergio Ferrera de Diego
    Miguel Ángel Torres Gil
    Marta Escriche Velilla
    Juan José Fernández Valdivia
    Josué Barrera Martín

    Technical visit to Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (ORM)

    In April 2022, the NRT staff of the Institute of Astrophysics of Canary Islands went to the astronomical observatory in La Palma (ORM), to "stand on the shoulders of giants", as Newton would say.

    The main goal was to get to know closely the software of the GTC, the biggest telescope in the world, in order to adapt it for the NRT, which will be the biggest robotic telescope in the world.

    We were lucky to go through the "forbidden doors" of GTC, the backstage, like the mirrors' room, the electrical room or the room with the IT racks. And even more interesting: we learnt about the rights and wrongs that they encountered on the processes of building this titanic telescope and putting it to work. Some recommendations seem easy to follow and others not so much, for instance, we will have to imagine what technology will be like in 20 years so that the telescope can be easily updated as time goes by.

    GTC is not a robotic telescope, at night there are several operators working there, taking the decisions of what to observe and what to do if a problem with the telescope comes up. And they also decide when to close the telescope if the weather conditions get bad.  

    In the case of a robotic telescope these decisions are taken by an "artificial intelligence" of the telescope itself. For this kind of software, the NRT engineers will adapt the "artificial intelligence" of the Liverpool Telescope (LT), a robotic telescope of 2 meters diameter that has been operating at ORM for 15 years, and that we also had the opportunity to visit. 

    Last but not least, we went to the site of the old Carlsberg Meridian Telescope. This is a telescope that it is no longer been used and that it will be taken to an astronomical museum. This is the site where NRT will be built, an example of astronomical recycling :-)




    The Minister of Science and Innovation at IACTEC

    The Minister of Science and Innovation, Diana Morant, presided over the annual meeting of the Governing Council of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), 13 December 2021, in the IACTEC building in La Laguna last Monday. Later, in a press conference she recognized the technological and research activity of the Institute during the pandemic.

    In the afternoon, together with IAC's Director and Instrumentation Coordinator, she visited the IACTEC facilitates and got to know the projects that are being developed in the center. Carlos Gutierrez, co-principal investigator of the New Robotic Telescope, explained the relevance of the project to the Minister at a national and international level, updated her on the progress done over the past year on the Preliminar Design and introduced some of the NRT team members based in Spain.

    The collaboration with the other NRT partners, the LJMU and the Oviedo University and the creation of the Advanced Optics Center (CSOA) to manufacture the NRT mirrors were highlighted during the visit of the Minister.



    NRT stand with Carlos



    • Title: El futuro telescopio robótico NRT 

    Author: Miguel Ángel Torres Gil

    Place: Online meeting with secondary level students, Tenerife, Spain

    Date: June 10th 2021

    • Title: The New 4-m robotic telescope and new concepts for future extremely large telescopes.

    Author: Carlos M. Gutiérrez,

    Place: Workshop Present and future of optical and infrared astronomy: synergies between China and Spain Beijing (China)

    Date: October 21st 2019

    More info: http://astro.ucas.ac.cn/index.php/2016-03-17-01-36-23/2016-03-17-01-36-25/262-2019-11-14-10-30-57?umynzrsihmyuocln

    • Title: The 4 m New Robotic Telescope

    Author: Carlos M. Gutiérrez

    Place: Torremolinos (Málaga)

    Date: September 30th 2019 

    • Title: Time Domain Astrophysics with Liverpool and New Robotic Telescopes

    Author: Prof. Iain Steele,

    Place: IAC Headquarters, La Laguna.

    Date: September 18th 2019.

    • Title: The 4 m New Robotic Telescope

    Author:  Carlos M. Gutiérrez

    Place: Sixth Workshop on Robotic Autonomous ObservatoriesFacultad de Óptica y Optometría. UCM, Madrid

    Date: March 1st 2019

    Online Press

    Title: El Roque acogerá el telescopio robótico más rápido y avanzado del mundo

    Date: February 28th 2019. www.eldiario.es  (LaPalma Ahora)


    RTVCA News: http://www.rtvc.es/noticias/video-a-la-espera-del-telescopio-liverpool-2-191194.aspx#.XdP6aTJETUI

    Related publications

    • The 4 m New Robotic Telescope Project: An Updated Report
      The New Robotic Telescope (NRT) is an international collaboration to build and operate a 4m diameter fully robotic telescope. The telescope will take advantage of the superb atmospheric conditions at the Observatory of the Roque de los Muchachos (ORM). In conjunction with a large aperture, entirely robotic operation, quick response, and a set of
      Gutiérrez, C. M. et al.

      Advertised on:

    • Conceptual design of a fast-slewing mount for the New Robotic Telescope
      The New Robotic Telescope is designed to conduct rapid target follow-up within 30 seconds of an `alert' from survey facilities. To achieve this will require a quick settling time requirement for the mount structure and the mirrors. This means the structure shall be designed to be sufficiently rigid to achieve the mirror position within the `settle
      Ranjbar, Ali et al.

      Advertised on:

    • Conceptual design for the optomechanical systems of the New Robotic Telescope
      The New Robotic Telescope (NRT) will be the largest fully robotic telescope in the world (4-m class). The primary mirror (M1) will be comprised of 18 independent 960 mm hexagonal segments with an actively controlled position to maintain the shape of the optical surface. The secondary mirror (M2) will be a lightweighted circular mirror of 1270 mm of
      Oria, A. et al.

      Advertised on:

    • The New Robotic Telescope: progress report
      The robotic 2-metre Liverpool Telescope (LT), located at Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma, has seen great success in its <15 year lifetime. In particular the facility thrives in time domain astronomy, responding rapidly to triggers from Swift and efficiently conducting a wide variety of science with its intelligent scheduler. The New Robotic
      Jermak, Helen E. et al.

      Advertised on:

    • The 4-m New Robotic Telescope (NRT): status of the optomechanical systems
      The New Robotic Telescope (NRT) is currently under conceptual phase design, will be sited on the Observatory of Roque de los Muchachos (ORM) in La Palma (Canary Islands), and will be the largest fully robotic telescope in the world when it enters into operation in a five years time. A collecting area four times larger than the current Liverpool
      Oria, A. et al.

      Advertised on:

    • The new 4-m robotic telescope
      We present a project to build a 4-m-diameter telescope (New Robotic Telescope [NRT]) with fully robotic operation. The telescope will be sited at the Observatory of Roque de los Muchachos in the island of La Palma (Spain). When it enters into operation in 5 years' time, it will be likely the largest robotic telescope in the world. This, in
      Gutiérrez, C. M. et al.

      Advertised on:

    • Liverpool telescope 2: a new robotic facility for rapid transient follow-up
      The Liverpool Telescope is one of the world's premier facilities for time domain astronomy. The time domain landscape is set to radically change in the coming decade, with synoptic all-sky surveys such as LSST providing huge numbers of transient detections on a nightly basis; transient detections across the electromagnetic spectrum from other major
      Copperwheat, C. M. et al.

      Advertised on:

    • Challenges of the telescope control system for large robotic telescopes
      The New Robotic Telescope (NRT) with a collecting area of 4pi square meters will be the largest fully robotic telescope in the world. This contribution is focused on the design of the telescope control system, summarizing the state of the art and proposing a software architecture and a development roadmap that reflects the needs and requirements
      M. Torres, J. J. Fernández-Valdivia, A. Oria, C. M. Gutiérrez, A. García Piñero, D. M. Arnold, R. J. Smith

      Advertised on:


    Related talks

    • Seminario de Instrumentación: Estado actual y retos del proyecto NRT
      El IAC es uno de los socios principales en el proyecto NRT (New Robotic Telescope) para el diseño y construcción de un telescopio de 4 m robótico que estará ubicado en La Palma. El telescopio será un referente mundial en la caracterización de fenómenos astronómicos de naturaleza transitoria (supernovas, estallidos de rayos gamma, contrapartidas de


      25 Mar 2022 - 11:00 Europe/London
    • The New Robotic Telescope and the Center for Advanced Optics
      The New Robotic Telescope (NRT) and the Center for Optics (CSOA) are two of the IAC's most ambitious technology initiatives for the next few years. On the one hand, NRT will be the most powerful robotic telescope in the world allowing the Spanish astrophysics community to play a leading role in the field of time domain astrophysics, while CSOA will
      Carlos Manuel
      Gutiérrez de La Cruz
      11 Jun 2021 - 15:50 Europe/London
    • Time Domain Astrophysics with Liverpool and New Robotic Telescopes
      Since first light in 2004 the 2.0m Liverpool Telescope has been the world’s largest fully robotic telescope. It specialises in time domain astrophysics and has a dedicated instrument suite giving imagining, spectroscopic and polarimetric capabilities. In this seminar I will describe how the robotic operation of the telescope works and give examples

      sala GTC

      18 Sep 2019 - 12:30 Europe/London

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