Tenagra Observatories is a vision that has finally come to be. The astronomical community has always dreamed of automated and robotic telescopes doing the work that people cannot. Many, many applications require automation: times series of variable stars, NEO searches, supernovae searches and many long term photometric studies. Huge amounts of very valuable data with many different research objectives can be gathered nightly.
Tenagra Observatories, Ltd. is the realization of that dream.
Sometimes it was a nightmare. Getting telescopes to point accurately and track without guide stars is a formidable task not even sufficiently solved at most professional sites. Other problems include maintaining focus in temperature sensitive instruments, structures that can closed if rain is detected, and making domes turn 300 times a night without falling apart and finding CCD cameras that can withstand the rigors of up to 1,000 exposures per night. Tenagra Observatories has solved these problems on the small telescope scale: it hasn’t been easy, but we never surrendered.
Tenagra Observatories, Ltd. has set a standard in highly automated astronomy and it has had research partnerships with Lick Observatory, USNO, CalTech, Wesleyan, U. of N. Carolina and many other top institutions.
As of January 1, 2015 Tenagra can no longer accept commercial customers. It has received NASA grant #NNX15AE89G for a period of 3 years. The accepted NASA proposal was to use the Tenagra telescopes for deep follow-up of newly discovered NEOs, follow-up of fast NEOs that may become lost and recovery of difficult to locate 1rst opposition NEO returns. Here we produced a huge scientific work, something unique in the NEO field.
Now, we are opening to a new endeavour: doing astronomy communication and outreach, thanks to a growing cooperation with the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy, which pioneered the field and shares our same vision of science.
The Tenagra Name.
The name “Tenagra” was used in the Star Trek Next Generation episode “Darmok”. No, we don’t run about the observatories wearing Spock ears. But so many of the Star Trek episodes had meaningful points to make, as well as showing a possible future where humanity can do a little better than it is doing now. Tenagra was a mythical place where two enemies, Darmok and Jilad, gave up their mutual antagonism and defeated a common enemy on the island of Tenagra. This was an exploration of how far people can go in the spirit of cooperation. We are seeking this same kind of cooperation and development of common language in the world of observational astronomy, the dream spoken about above.