EKU Observatory for Astronomical Research and Instruction
The Astronomy Deck was built and opened in 1999 to accommodate the needs of students enrolled in Astronomy courses at EKU and provide research opportunities for Faculty and Students, as well as astronomical viewing for the general public at Open House events. It replaced another site due to encroachment and light pollution of EKU's expanding campus facilities.
Available to students are 9 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes (SCT's) of 6" aperture and 2 SCT's of 12" aperture for deep sky observing.
In November 2006 Dr. Marco 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 large telescope with an appropriate tracking mount and a facility to house the instrument permanently.
Construction of the facility was completed in July 2008, with final installation of the mount and telescope in September 2008, and connection to the University’s computer network in November of the same year. The telescope was completely computer controlled and, with its connection to the network, it could be controlled remotely via the Internet. In July 2017 the original telescope and instrumentation was replaced with a state-of-the-art 17" reflecting telescope with CCD camera, mount, and counter-weights to enhance the capabilities of the Observatory. The telescope, camera, and retracting roof can all be controlled remotely via the university network.
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 observation at the push of a button.
We use this facility for:
- Outreach. Visits by EKU students, Faculty and Staff during Open House dates. High schools and other organizations are welcomed as well. Generally, Open House dates will coincide with Astronomical events of interest to the general public (lunar eclipses, visible planets, Moon observation). Images of celestial objects are obtained and posted on our Facebook page: EKU Physics & Astronomy.
- Research. Perform photometry of variable stars and capture transient events in the skies over Kentucky.
- Instruction. Students of our advanced lab courses, and any other students interested in learning advanced experimental techniques, can make use of the facility for measurements and astrophotography.
This facility is an important addition to Eastern Kentucky University as it provides 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.