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Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics Installs New Telescope in Rooftop Observatory

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Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics Installs New Telescope in Rooftop Observatory

Christopher Palma, senior lecturer in astronomy and astrophysics, poses next to the new telescope, which was recently installed in the Davey Laboratory rooftop observatory.

12 November 2014

The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, already known as the home of a top-five astronomy and astrophysics education program in the United States, just added another valuable teaching and research facility to its arsenal. The department recently installed a new 24-inch f/6.5 Corrected Dall-Kirkham Astrograph telescope in its Davey Laboratory rooftop observatory.

The previous telescope occupying the bay on the rooftop was 40 years old and impossible to control for viewing, said Christopher Palma, senior lecturer in astronomy and astrophysics. “The new telescope is a modern telescope with a modern operating system, which will give us options for better observing.” Palma adds that this new telescope will have the ability to be used with modern telescope instruments, which the old telescope was not optimized to use. The new telescope also has a modern digital camera, allowing viewers to be able to see and capture images of fainter and more distant objects.

The purchase of the new telescope was made possible by the Eberly College of Science instructional equipment fund, which covers some of the costs of updating equipment used to teach students. A major focus of the college’s 2014-2019 strategic plan is to enhance the learning experience for all students in the college, and upgrading outdated equipment is an important part of that process, said Mary Beth Williams, associate dean for undergraduate education, who oversees the college’s instructional equipment fund. “The upgraded telescope is comparable to those that students will experience in the best research labs. To provide them with this opportunity as undergraduates is a unique opportunity and an example of the excellence in undergraduate education in the college,” said Williams.

The new telescope provides many new opportunities for students. “Being able to use a modern telescope like this one will give undergrads hands-on experience with a research telescope,” Palma notes. “The way this telescope is controlled is more like the telescopes that students will see in their careers later on.”

Graduate students receive important new opportunities with the addition of this telescope, too. The new telescope gives the department the ability to offer a graduate course that they previously couldn’t—a course where graduate students can learn to design, implement, and test the effectiveness of telescope instruments. This skillset can greatly enhance a student’s career possibilities.

“We’re excited to be able to offer our students the expanded educational opportunities that come with this new telescope,” said Palma.


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