The Telescope Fabra-ROA at the Montsec (TFRM) is a project of renewal of a Baker-Nunn Camera (BNC) participated by the Reial Acadèmia de Ciències i Arts de Barcelona (RACAB) - Observatori Fabra, the Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (ROA) and the Departament d'Astronomia i Meteorologia, Universitat de Barcelona.
The BNC is installed in a privileged area of the Catalan Pre-Pyrenees, at the summit of the Montsec d'Ares (Sant Esteve de la Sarga, Lleida). This site hosts also another observing facility which is pioneered by the Consorci del Montsec.
The main scientific program in which the TFRM is focused summarized as follows:
- Extrasolar planet detection: In last few years extrasolar planets have been regularly discovered by means of diverse observational techniques. Transit differential photometry is one of the options and will be executed with great expectations of success (3mmag precision and up to 106 stars in a single exposure) by the TFRM, specially for detecting super-Earths orbiting around preselected M-type dwarfs.
- Discovery and follow-up of space debris: objects of dimensions between 10cm and 1m that orbit around the Earth and have their origin in the launchings of numerous space missions that have been released since early days of Space Age. In particular, wide-field optical telescopes have revealed as the most useful facilities for detecting high-altitude (>2000km) debris, such as those in geostationary (GEOs) or gestationary transit objects (GTOs) orbits.
- Photometric characterization of variable stars and binary systems: as a by-product of the extrasolar planet survey mentioned above, the huge FOV of the BNC will produce hundred of thousands of light curves which can be analyzed in order to discover new variable stars and binary systems.
- Tracking of artificial satellites: the original goal for which the BNC was designed will play an important role in the scientific development of the instrument. TFRM is being used to control and monitor artificial satellite orbits.
- Discovery and follow-up observations of near Earth objects (NEOs): the orbits of these objects can bring them really close to the Earth so that a collision is not discarded. Therefore, the census of these objects is of great scientific and decisive importance for calibrating the probability of collision. For this purpose, TFRM can operate on its own, in cooperation with other ground-telescopes or with observing orbital satellites like NEOSSAT.
Other possible applications for the TFRM are:
- Discovery and/or follow-up of gamma ray bursts (GRBs), supernovae (SNs) and novae.
- Discovery and follow-up observations of asteroids and comets. This task has been developed in the Fabra Observatory since 1904, and the TFRM is an ideal facility to push up this activity.
- Observation (discovery and follow-up) of transeptunian objects (TNOs) and Kuiper belt objects (KBOs).