This summer has been the summer of remote telescopes! This summer we have begun some tests using the fantastic Las Campanas Remote Observatory (LCRO), developed by Mike Long, Dave Jurasevich, and his friends at Carnegie Observatories at the best observing site at Earth, Las Campanas, Chile. It is hard to imagine the clarity and depth of the Chilean skies – which at Las Campanas offer the best views of space from the ground. The conditions are usually dry and clear and the “seeing” – defined as the sharpness with which you can focus star images – is unmatched by any other site. The LCRO is a 0.3-meter telescope on this site, and can be controlled and operated anywhere on earth using the software known as ACP. This telescope is equipped with a fantastic suite of filters and a great CCD camera. Its tracking abilities enable it to capture images of very faint objects – galaxies, nebulae and distant star clusters – through long exposures with its electronic camera. This summer I began using the telescope, in consultation with Mike, and in collaboration with my students Gabi Mehta (Pomona) and Silvia Lara (Yale-NUS College). The students were able to get some beautiful images of the galaxy M83 and the Lagoon Nebula (below), and also to test some new research programs which include monitoring of variable stars within large star clusters, deep imaging of SDSS galaxies with radio observations, and exoplanet transits. The first datasets are being analyzed and we look forward to regularly using this fantastic telescope with our undergraduates in the course projects and research!
Links of interest for LCRO information:
- http://lascampanasremote.org/ – main LCRO page for outside viewers
- http://lcobot.duckdns.org – more detailed page with technical information for potential observers
- http://starimager.com/Secondary%20Pages/Observing%20Sites%20Pages/Las%20Campanas.html – Dave Jurasevech’s page on LCRO with nice photos of the site and installation.
Below are some images of remotely operable telescopes – as part of emergent GROWTH educational initiative at Caltech. Note the beautiful images of M83 and the Lagoon nebula – taken by our student Gabi Mehta, GROWTH undergraduate fellow, and Pomona College junior physics major.