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 (www.boyce-astro.org) 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.
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.