More Observation Time for NAU at Lowell Observatory’s Discovery Channel Telescope

Telescope 300
The Discovery Channel Telescope is a 4.3 meter aperture telescope—the fifth largest in the continental United States. Photo courtesy Lowell Observatory/Len Bright

Northern Arizona University has become a formal partner in Lowell Observatory’s Discovery Channel Telescope. The five-year partnership, beginning January 2014, will give NAU astronomers about 80 nights of observation time. The telescope, commissioned in July 2013, is the fifth largest in the continental United States.

“This represents an important regional partnership and is a huge boost for our astronomy program,” said NAU President John Haeger, who signed the documents along with observatory trustee Lowell Putnam.

Stephen Tegler, Chair of Physics and Astronomy at NAU, will have his first opportunity to use the telescope in February. He and NAU Associate Professor David Trilling, who has viewing time scheduled for January, will search the Kuiper Belt at the periphery of the solar system. The large-aperture telescope is ideal for producing excellent images of faint objects.

“The Discovery Channel Telescope provides an entirely new research capability for us,” Tegler said. “Most astronomers in the United States will get a couple of nights per year on a telescope this size. There are not many universities that have this kind of access.”

Tegler said that in addition to observation time to search the heavens, the partnership opens new opportunities for hands-on teaching, which he called a highlight of NAU’s approach to science education. “The way you become a scientist is by apprenticeship,” he said. “When students see they have access to this kind of facility, that’s a very big motivator.”

The telescope is located about 40 miles southeast of Flagstaff at Lowell Observatory’s Happy Jack site.

--courtesy of NAU Public Affairs