The MDW Survey has roots stretching back several decades to the time of emulsion-based photography. It is, however, modern digital imaging, image processing, and recent advances in technology – especially in the realm of remote, autonomous telescope operation – that have made the project a reality. The survey is currently using two, custom-modified Astro-Physics 130mm Starfire GTX refractors operating at f/4.5. Each is equipped with an FLI ProLine 16803 CCD camera and a 3-nm Astrodon hydrogen-alpha filter. They are mounted on a pair of Software Bisque Paramount MX+ German equatorial mounts in one of the roll-off-roof observatory buildings at New Mexico Skies Observatory outside of Mayhill, New Mexico. The equipment operates autonomously using the observatory-automation software package ACP Expert by DC-3 Dreams.
A single exposure made with each telescope records an area of sky roughly 3.5 degrees wide for a total coverage of 12+ square degrees at a resolution of 3.17 arcseconds/pixel. Taking into account the field overlap necessary to create a mosaic image, slightly more than 4,100 individual fields are needed to cover the entire sky. Approximately 80% of these fields are accessible from the New Mexico site, and because each field is being imaged with at least 4 hours of exposure it is expected to take several years to complete the survey’s northern component.
Plans for release of the MDW Survey data have not been finalized, but for now we will be periodically releasing data in the form of large-field mosaic images as sections of the sky are completed.