MONET is a network of two robotic 1.2m telescopes in Texas and South Africa operated by the University of Göttingen, the McDonald Observatory of the Univ. of Texas at Austin, and the South African Astronomical Observatory.   The system is designed to provide astronomical images to its users with a maximum of scientific or educational use and a minimum of user effort.

The overall operation is controlled by "MONET/Central" in Göttingen, consisting of a central archive and a user portal which administers the use of the telescopes and passes information from the users to the local systems operating the telescopes and instruments.  At each telescope, the STELLA robotic software (courtesy of the Leibnitz Institut für Astrophysik) takes the user requests and attempts to obtain data for all requests.


The STELLA robotic observatory system and database portal used by MONET is organised around the most important parts of a robotic observatory.

  • There are USERs who have access to the system (i.e. can submit observations and download results);  each user has a unique ID after having registered him/herself and having been accepted by the system.
  • Each user is assigned to a particular INSTITUTION for the purpose of keeping track of how the telescope is used; the institutions are the three astronomical institutes that run MONET (Univ. of Göttingen, McDonald Observatory, and the South African Astronomical Observatory) as well as the generic institution "School" used for all of the international school users.
  • Users keep track of their activities by maintaining a set of PROJECTs; each project has its own unique ID and many different users can have access to a Project - the main administrator is the PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR ("PI") and the others are CO-INVESTIGATORs ("Co-I").
  • Each project has a title and consists of information about why it is being carried out as well as the TASKs attached to the Project.
  • A TASK is something you want the system to do.  It consists of TARGETS (astronomical objects) and a description of just what you want to do (e.g. take a series of images in this and that filter).
  • Each time a TASK is carried out, it produces an OBSERVATION.
  • An OBSERVATION is the lowest unit of robotic operation and can consist of many separate IMAGES, perhaps taken over an extended period of time.
  • The way an observation is selected and performed is determined by the SCHEDULING constraints; there are a wide variety of different kinds of constraints possible - e.g. by time, by phase, by weather condition, by priority, ....

This means that you must organise your use of MONET within this model:

  • You and any collaborators who should have access to any PROJECTs need to have accounts.
  • Organize your work into separate PROJECTs and give them good titles and informative abstracts so that they are easy to manage.
  • You can add your collaborators to your projects as "Co-Investigators" and they can be from other institutions (the institutional "charge" is distributed among all of you, so find lots of school kids for your projects!!!!).   
  • Add TASKs to your projects as needed; the list is dynamic and can be extended at any time.  These are the units which will eventually produce data.
  • All tasks must not only be created and fully characterised - they must also be ACTIVATED (i.e. sent to the telescope scheduler);  without an activation, the task remains just a possibility and is not carried out.
  • With time, your activated task will produce OBSERVATIONs.
  • Once a task has been activated and an observation made, you cannot delete it or the project (you can hide them for convenience), because to do so would be to create orphaned observations without any context.


See the >> Help topics page << for more detailed information about how all of this is done.