Low-cost Access to the Deep, High-cadence Sky: the Argus Optical Array

Nicholas M. Law, Hank Corbett, Nathan W. Galliher, Ramses Gonzalez, Alan Vasquez, Glenn Walters, Lawrence MacHia, Jeff Ratzloff, Kendall Ackley, Chris Bizon, Christopher Clemens, Steven Cox, Steven Eikenberry, Ward S. Howard, Amy Glazier, Andrew W. Mann, Robert Quimby, Daniel Reichart, David Trilling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


New mass-produced, wide-field, small-aperture telescopes have the potential to revolutionize ground-based astronomy by greatly reducing the cost of collecting area. In this paper, we introduce a new class of large telescope based on these advances: an all-sky, arcsecond-resolution, 1000 telescope array which builds a simultaneously high-cadence and deep survey by observing the entire sky all night. As a concrete example, we describe the Argus Array, a 5 m-class telescope with an all-sky field of view and the ability to reach extremely high cadences using low-noise CMOS detectors. Each 55 GPix Argus exposure covers 20% of the entire sky to m g = 19.6 each minute and m g = 21.9 each hour; a high-speed mode will allow sub-second survey cadences for short times. Deep coadds will reach m g = 23.6 every five nights over 47% of the sky; a larger-aperture array telescope, with an étendue close to the Rubin Observatory, could reach m g = 24.3 in five nights. These arrays can build two-color, million-epoch movies of the sky, enabling sensitive and rapid searches for high-speed transients, fast-radio-burst counterparts, gravitational-wave counterparts, exoplanet microlensing events, occultations by distant solar system bodies, and myriad other phenomena. An array of O(1000) telescopes, however, would be one of the most complex astronomical instruments yet built. Standard arrays with hundreds of tracking mounts entail thousands of moving parts and exposed optics, and maintenance costs would rapidly outpace the mass-produced-hardware cost savings compared to a monolithic large telescope. We discuss how to greatly reduce operations costs by placing all optics in thermally controlled, sealed domes with only a few moving parts. Coupled with careful software scope control and use of existing pipelines, we show that the Argus Array could become the deepest and fastest Northern sky survey, with total costs in the $20M range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number035003
JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Issue number1033
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • Astronomical instrumentation
  • Optical telescopes
  • Surveys
  • Wide-field telescopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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