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Sommers-Bausch Observatory Information
Facility & Mission Essentials
|| OBSERVING INFO | OVERVIEW | FACILITIES | READING ROOM | HISTORY | SCRAPBOOK | RESEARCH ||
|Latitude||+40 deg 00' 13.4"||(40.00372 degrees North)|
|Longitude||+105 deg 15' 45.0"||(105.2635 degrees West)|
|Altitude||1653 meters||(5423 feet ASL)|
Sommers-Bausch Observatory (SBO) on the University of Colorado campus is operated by the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS) to provide observational experience for CU undergraduate students, and hands-on training in astronomical observations and instrumentation for departmental majors and graduate students. Telescopes include 16, 18, and 24-inch Cassegrain reflectors and a 10-inch aperture heliostat.
The Observatory is used by approximately 2000 undergraduate students each year to view celestial objects that would otherwise only be seen on the pages of a textbook or discussed in classroom lectures. The three major astronomical telescopes are all controlled via a Windows-based Telescope Control System (TCS), which are also interfaced to TheSky planetarium-style "click-and-go" pointing software.
The DFM 18-inch telescope has recently been outfitted with a new large-format thermoelectrically cooled SBIG ST-2000XCM (CCD) color camera mounted on an 8-inch piggyback telescope, so students can image celestial objects electronically while simultaneously detecting photons with their own eyes at the eyepiece of the 18-inch. The USB format permits rapid download of images, while the integral color mask makes color imaging almost as easy as old B&W CCD work. A color printer has been added on deck to permit students to take home a hardcopy of their work.
In 2006, the 10.5-inch Bausch lens that was the optical heart of the solar telescope cracked from thermal stress. In the summer of 2007 we received a 10-inch replacement achromat courtesy of Big Bear Solar Observatory and the diligent efforts of Alan Kiplinger. The new lens has a slightly shorter focal length than the old, and necessitated a complete renovation of the optical layout of the heliostat bench. Nevertheless, we are now back in operation with solar white light viewing, imaging in broadband, hydrogen-alpha, and calcium-K spectral bands, and spectroscopic observations. A new protective insulated shelter and remotely-operated aperture control system should be completed by early 2009.
The 24-inch Boller & Chivens telescope is primarily used for instruction in observational astronomy for our upper-division undergraduate majors and graduate students. When not in use as a training instrument, the telescope is also utilized for research projects not feasible with larger telescopes because of time constraints or scheduling limitations. The telescope supports imaging, stellar spectroscopy, and eyepiece observing, and has recently been modified to permit a special study in polarimetery. Large-format SBIG ST-1001E and ST-8 CCD cameras serve as the primary detectors.
Recent modifications to the 24-inch include a flip-mirror imaging capability to the spectrograph to simplify and improve response time of the telescope by eliminating instrument changeovers; a new autoguider camera system for the 6" guide scope; and expanded computer hardware. In 2006 a new wide-slit aperture of the 24" telescope dome, and cooling vents around the dome periphery, were added to help the telescope reach ambient night temperature more quickly and improve the telescope "seeing". Work is currently being done to improve the reliability of the window control system.
In addition to the telescope and administrative computer facilities, the Observatory also houses COSMOS, one of the most successful and heavily used computer labs on campus. The lab is comprised of a number of independent Dell workstations, plus the separate Sun server system named "cosmos.colorado.edu".
Recent improvements include new audio/video equipment and wireless campus internet service now available throughout the building. Work this past year has emphasized trying to modernize the 55-year-old building's physical appearance: new carpeting for the Observing Deck and Dome Room, new paint for the Dome Room, Astronomy Lab, and Machine Shop, new window coverings and improved lighting for the Astro and Cosmos Labs; and new furniture, optical bench, whiteboards, and overhead projection systems. The new Student Lounge is a place for students to relax, rest during an all-nighter at the telescopes, or for TAs to hold office hours; it boasts new paint, furniture, window coverings, floor coverings, lighting, and (hopefully) soon a new a/v system.
Free Open Houses for public viewing through the 16-and 18-inch telescopes are held every Friday evening that school is in session, hosted primarily by APS grad students and faculty. Students, families, groups, and the general public are all welcome.
The Observatory is located on the hill just east of Fiske Planetarium, near the corner of Regent Drive and Kittridge Loop. Look for the medium-sized smooth dome above the crinkled geodesic dome of the planetarium.