Supporting Observatories

The success of the Astronomy Research Seminar is only possible due to the participation and support of the astronomical observatories that commit their resources and personnel to our mission. We are grateful for their past and current efforts to bring published astronomical research to an increasing number of students teams. 


The very first Astronomy Research Seminar (2001) utilized a robotic telescope at the fully automated Fairborn Observatory, located on Mt. Hopkins in southern Arizona. The Fairborn Observatory’s fully automatic telescopes began operation in 1983 and have been in continuous operation since then. The pioneering Fairborn Observatory developments in automation and remote access has inspired many other collections and networks of robotic telescopes. The majority of seminar student team observations are now made with remote, robotic telescopes, including those at the Great Basin Observatory, Las Cumbres Observatory, Sierra Remote Observatories, iTelescope, and Orion Observatory. Student teams have also made observations at large, manually-operated telescopes at Mt. Wilson Observatory (60-and 100-inch telescopes), Kitt Peak National Observatory (2.1-meter telescope), and Pine Mountain Observatory (24-inch telescope). All these observatories have been vital to the development of the Astronomy Research Seminar and are described below.

Great Basin Observatory


The Great Basin Observatory (GBO) is located at high elevation in the Great Basin National Park which features some of the darkest skies in the entire U.S. It is the only research observatory located in a National Park. GBO features a totally robotic 0.7-meter telescope, the PlaneWave Instruments CDK-700, housed in a completely automated observatory.  Astronomy Research Seminar student teams from several schools routinely access GBO remotely.

College of the Desert Mary Reagan Observatory

The Mary Reagan Observatory is located at College of the Desert's Mecca/Thermal Campus. It features a 1.0-meter PlaneWave CDK1000 telescope inside a 16-foot AstroHaven dome. The telescope is fully robotic and serves astronomy lectures and labs as well as the Astronomy Research Seminar. Groups of students are using the 1-meter telescope to observe double stars and Cepheid variable stars. In addition, the telescope will be used for photometry and spectroscopy to observe stars, galaxies, asteroids and comets. With its remotely accessed robotic telescope, the Mary Reagan Observatory welcomes collaboration with student researchers both locally and internationally.

Las Cumbres Observatory


Las Cumbres Observatory (LSO) is a global network of identical 0.4-, 1.0-, and 2.0-meter robotic telescopes installed in totally automated observatories.  With uniform matching telescopes and instruments, continuous observations can be made seamlessly as observations are passed from one telescope to another as the Earth rotates.  A number of student seminar teams in Hawaii have made use of the 2.0-meter Faulks Telescope North.  Other student teams have made observations with 0.4-meter telescope under the auspices of an LCO educational outreach program that grants observational time based on proposals.  



The totally robotic telescopes in the iTelescope network are located at various locations around the planet. Dozens of Astronomy Research Seminar papers have been based on iTelescope robotic observations. These papers were, for the most part, written by student teams in the greater San Diego area.  Initial use of iTelescope in research seminars was launched by Pat and Grady Boyce (Boyce Research Initiatives and Educational Foundation, BRIEF ( at the Army and Navy Academy, and then spread by BRIEF to high schools and community colleges in the San Diego area, including Grossmont College, Miramar College, and Mesa College.

Sierra Remote Observatories


Sierra Remote Observatories is a collection of a number of co-located robotic observatories in the Sierra Nevada mountains of east-central California.    

Fairborn Observatory


The Fairborn Observatory was founded by Russ Genet in 1979. Louis Boyd joined Russ as Co-Director in 1981. First fully automatic telescope operation was achieved in October 1983 and the pioneering Fairborn Observatory automated telescopes have been in continuous operation since then, growing in number from one 10-inch telescope to 14 fully robotic telescopes. The Fairborn Observatory’s 2-meter telescope was the first robotic spectroscopic telescope. The Fairborn Observatory was moved from Russ’ back yard in the town of Fairborn, Ohio, to Mt. Hopkins in southern Arizona in 1985, and was then relocated south of Patagonia, Arizona ten years later. The Fairborn Observatory is credited with the first remote access in 1987.

Orion Observatory 


The Orion Observatory was established in 2002 after Russ and Cheryl Genet moved near San Luis Obispo, California. The observatory was, for many years, primarily used by students for observations of double stars.     

The 2.1-meter Telescopeat Kitt Peak National Observatory


The 2.1-m telescope at KPNO was used by a number of Seminar teams in two week-long observing sessions; one in the fall of 2013 and the other in the spring of 2014. In each observing run, multiple teams came to observe for a few nights and were then replaced by another fresh team. The weather was excellent for both runs, with nearly 12 hours of fast-paced, rather exhausting observing every night. Speckle interferometry observations of close double stars were utilized by student teams in their research for several years after the runs.

Mount Wilson Observatory (60- and 100-inch telescopes)


The Mt. Wilson Observatory twice held the record for hosting the world’s largest telescope, first for the 60-inch and then for the 100-inch telescope. Edwin Hubble used the 100-inch to discover the immense size of the universe and also determine that it was expanding.


Astronomy Research Seminar student teams have had observing runs on both telescopes. The seeing is usually outstanding on Mt. Wilson, making it ideal for visual observations of close double stars.

Pine Mountain Observatory


The Pine Mountain Observatory, operated by the University of Oregon, is located about 20 miles east of Bend.  It was the site, for four years in a row, of Astronomy Research Seminar summer science camps.  Teams of students from Oregon colleges and high schools, along with their teachers, were assisted by seasoned double-star observers from the Cuesta College Seminar. These summer camps produced a dozen published papers.  Especially active were teams from Evergreen College led by Rebecca Chamberlain. Jolyon Johnson, Tom Frey, Richard Berry, Dan Gray, and Russ Genet were key supporters at all four summer camps.

Institute for Student Astronomical Research (InStAR)
Rachel Freed

Email:   Phone: 707-326-8310

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