EKU Observatory for Astronomical Research and Instruction
In November 2006 Dr. Ciocca wrote a grant proposal for the EKU Board Initiative, and received funding to construct a small astronomical observatory for the enhancement of Astronomical Observing Facilities at Eastern Kentucky University. The proposal was funded, allowing acquisition of a 14” diameter telescope, with an appropriate tracking mount and a facility to house the instrument permanently.
Construction of the facility was completed in July 2008, and the final installation of the mount and telescope in September 2008, with connection to the University’s computer network in November of the same year. The telescope is completely computer controlled and the connection to the network will permit, in the future, the use of this facility via the Internet.
The facility of 320 square feet has two rooms, one housing the permanently mounted telescope and the other, insulated against the elements, acting as a control room. The roof is mounted on rollers and permits the operator to start observing at the push of a button.
We plan to use this facility for:
- Outreach. Visits by EKU student, Faculty and Staff during Open House dates. High Schools and other organization will be welcomed as well. So far we’ve had two open houses. Generally they will coincide with Astronomical events of interest to the general public (lunar eclipses, Visible Planets, Moon observation).
- Research: to perform photometry of variable stars and capture transient events in the skies over Kentucky. The software necessary for data reduction is already available while the instrumentation (CCD camera and filter) will be purchased soon.
- Instruction: Once the instrumentation is in place, students of our advanced lab courses, and any other students interested in learning advanced experimental techniques, will be able to make use of the facility for measurements and astrophotography.
This facility is an important addition to Eastern Kentucky University facilities, as it will provide students with the opportunity to see and operate a modern telescope and instrumentation and, for the public at large, to see and marvel about our Universe.