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George P. McCook Observatory

The George P. McCook Observatory on the 4th Floor of Mendel Science Center is the main on-site observing facility for students, staff, and faculty in the Department of Astrophysics & Planetary Science. Astronomy & Astrophysics majors are introduced to the equipment during their sophomore year via the year-long Observational Lab series (AST2133-2134) and many continue observational work in the Observatory throughout their undergraduate careers.  The Observatory contains three main telescopes, each equipped with modern computer-controlled digital instrumentation, and provides students a full “hands on” learning experience with the acquisition and processing of photometric, spectroscopic, and imaging data.

The telescopes include:

1)      a PlaneWave Instruments CDK20 20-inch telescope, mounted on a Software Bisque Paramount ME and equipped with a SBIG STX-16803 CCD camera featuring a 4096x4096 pixel array;

2)      a Celestron C14 14-inch telescope, mounted on a Paramount ME and equipped with a SBIG ST-8XE CCD camera featuring a 1530x1020 imaging array; and

3)      a Celestron C14 14-inch telescope, on a DFM Engineering mount and equipped with a SBIG Self Guiding Spectrograph and ST-7XE camera.

In addition, a Meade Coronado SolarMax II 60 solar telescope is side-mounted on one of the 14-inch Celestrons.  The telescopes and instrumentation are all computer-controlled from a separate observing room, aka “the Greenhouse”.

The Observatory serves some of the main goals of our Department, including the teaching of fundamental research techniques and the kindling in the students of the joy and rewards of participating in the development of new knowledge. The research projects carried out by the students on these telescopes help fulfill the College’s mission of promoting intellectual curiosity, within a discipline which demands critical insight, mature judgment, and independent thinking.



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