NARIT is developing the Thai Southern Hemisphere Telescope (TST), at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO). The TST will be a 0.6-meter telescope, operated in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The telescope is a Cassegrain reflector, made by Planewave. It is expected to begin operation in late 2013.
The location, in the Coquimbo region of the Republic of Chile, provides some of the world's best conditions for astronomical observation. The region's high desert climate provides stable, dry air that results in consistently excellent seeing and visibility. The observatory is located far from any towns or cities, so that it has negligible light pollution. The observatory will primarily be operated remotely, so that researchers can plan and execute observations from anywhere in the world, using UNC's Skynet software.
The telescope will be a part of the UNC-led PROMPT project, and will also be known as "PROMPT-8". The PROMPT project will observe the afterglows of gamma ray bursts (GRBs), using a network of ground-based telescopes (at CTIO and elsewhere). Initial detection of GRBs will be done by space-based telescopes (such as NASA's SWIFT gamma-ray observatory), which will then send information used to direct the ground-based telescopes; the ground-based PROMPT network telescopes will then observe the quickly evolving GRB afterglow. This will provide data to allow researchers to study the evolution, spectra, and magnetic fields of these highly dynamic phenomena.
When not engaged in the primary mission of GRB study, the telescopes will be available to member institutions for other research - so that NARIT researchers will be able to schedule observations for other research, using multiple telescopes as necessary. The telescopes will also be available for education; yet another benefit of the network's widespread geographical reach is that teachers in Thailand can observe with their students even in the daytime.