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Abstract 4

Design for an Optical SETI Observatory


This paper describes the design and construction of the first Visible Optical SETI Observatory in North America.  The rationale supporting this activity is also given.   The Columbus Optical SETI Observatory is designed to detect ultra-fast pulsed laser beacon signals in the visible and near-infrared.  The design and construction of The Columbus Optical SETI Observatory has been underway for two years and employs the Meade LX200 10" (25.4-cm) Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope.  Recently, this observatory acquired a 240 sq. ft. control/conference room and a 10 ft. diameter astronomical dome to house the telescope.  The targeted search will formally begin next year, and will examine the same stars in the northern hemisphere presently under investigation by Microwave SETI's Project Phoenix.  A photon-counter will be used to look for the fast laser pulses.  Eventually, the photon-counting system employed will be capable of detecting pulses as short as 1 ns.  Each night's observations will be data-logged onto standard VHS video cassettes; the data rate and storage requirements being kept initially modest by setting a high discriminator threshold, in accordance with the Optical SETI rationale described.  The observatory's control computer will be hard-wired to the Optical SETI Computer Bulletin Board (BBS).  This will allow interested users to observe the control computer's screen in real-time, and the data being acquired.   Internet access to this BBS should be available next year.







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