27 March 2014

The mighty Optical Ground Station Telescope, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Jyri Kuusela, Physicist Optical Ground Station (OGS)
Tenerife, Canary Islands 2014
background: OGS observatory patners

The OGS (Optical Ground Station) telescope, installed in the Teide Observatory, Tenerife, Canary Islands has been built by Carl Zeiss, is owned by ESA (European Space Agency) and is operated by the IAC (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias). More precisely a small 3 men crew sub-contractor led by Mr. Jyri Kuusela, an Finnish astrophysicist that has attempted also our local University of Turku, Finland is now operating this instrument of precision to observe the solar system. His company is in charge of the operations.

I had the chance to interview Mr. Kuusela at the OGS (Optical Ground Station) telescope at the Teide Observatory in Tenerife, Canary Islands. This is what he told me:

Since its building in 1991, the OGS telescope has been directed by the institute of Astrophysics of Canary Islands (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias). They helped achieve the requested observation mandated by ESA, the European Space Agency, but had reservations on the way it should be executed. That is where Mr. Kuusela comes in and applied for a solution to start a company to be sub-contracted by the Inst. Astrophysics. Canary Isl. To run the ESA agenda. Now few years later, the 3 men crew led by Jyri Kuusela and two more graduate works together to control the Optical Ground Station Telescope.

There are specific tasks to be done, for example this camera has to be installed today, says Mr. Kuusela with a smile.

OGS telescope in Teide Observatory
1 m Ritchey-Chretien / Coudé telescope
supported by an English-built mount
inside a dome 12.5 m in diameter.
 Mr. Kuusela mentioned the 3 most important investigations led by the OGS telescope were to conduct optical laser communication between this Optical Ground Station and a Satellite above in space. Also another important work with the telescope is the observation consecrated to space debris created by satellites on Geo-stationary orbit around the planet. These satellites are satellites we have send and have malfunctioned, caught on fire or exploded and now are space debris in this specific location of Geo-stationary orbits.
Their last invetigation they conduct with the telescope is to identify Near Earth Objects (Neo’s). Many new Neo’s has been identified by Mr. Kuusela and he’s crew from the total of almost 100,000 Near Earth Objects identified as of today, around the astronomy community. The OGS telescope is one of the few ESA telescopes that chase’s the NEO objects as part of the European Space Agency programs.

The future of the OGS telescope lies with the accountability of its findings says Mr. Kuusela. “What I mean is that this OGS telescope has to have good results to keep on going and this depends always on the operating body that is controlling it.” Mr. Kuusela knows his business.

When visiting the telescope he showed me the “basement of the instrument" there you could find a optical bench “table” where you could conduct optical interferometry that could be really used with this 1 meter OGS telescope he mentioned. 

New CCD Camera attached to the 1 meter telescope at OGS, Teide Observatory.
 At the moment of this interview, Mr. Kuusela was changing the camera used to record data for his investigations. It last camera component suppliers didn’t supply anymore, so a new system had to be made, says Mr. Kuusela. This is part of our work here at the OGS.