April 23, 2021
For more than 40 years, the Wise Observatory, an astronomical research facility owned and operated by Tel Aviv University, has been conducting cutting-edge astronomical research. Located in Israel’s Negev desert, the observatory is 5 km from the nearest town, giving it a high percentage of cloudless nights free from light pollution.
The university’s telescope is fully robotic and equipped with a high-resolution spectrograph to discover planets around known stars. Installed in 1971, the telescope has remained relatively unchanged. But some components, including motors, bearings, and position feedback encoders, have a predetermined lifespan, and researchers were beginning to notice performance issues.
Encoders are attached to the telescope’s axes to sense the position of the telescope as it moves. The research team identified that the original encoders were giving false information, causing the software to shut down without warning. Onsite engineers concluded that replacement encoders were needed, and started inquiries with encoder suppliers. The research team chose to collaborate with Israel-based motion technology provider, Soulutions, a distributor of Renishaw encoders.
Because researchers only have a small window of opportunity to take high-quality images of specific constellations before orbit movements change the image, the integrator needed to work quickly to ensure minimal downtime.