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Old observatory gets new telescope

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  • Robert Blake
    Bringing the stars closer to home The new Lutz telescope has energized NAU undergraduates and professors alike. By MICHAEL THIEL Arizona Daily Sun Thursday,
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2008
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      Bringing the stars closer to home
      The new Lutz telescope has energized NAU undergraduates and
      professors alike.

      By MICHAEL THIEL
      Arizona Daily Sun
      Thursday, November 06, 2008

      Northern Arizona University is bringing the stars, nebular galaxies,
      planets and the moon closer than ever before with the newly installed
      Barry L. Lutz Telescope for Educational Advancement and Training.

      Designed and constructed in Flagstaff by RC Optical Systems, the Lutz
      is a Carbon-Truss 20-inch Ritchey-Chretien telescope of very high
      quality with mirrors that are polished at an atomic scale, said
      Morgan Conklin of RC Optical Systems. And with an estimated price tag
      of $100,000, it did not come easy.

      Nearly three years of planning, proposing and fundraising were
      required in order to acquire the Lutz.

      Financial support was a campus-wide effort, with donations
      contributed from many different departments, professors, students and
      members of the Flagstaff community.

      As donations were received, members of the Physics and Astronomy
      Department decided that if someone where to donate half of the amount
      needed to acquire the telescope, then they would name the telescope
      in honor of that donator.

      Barry L. Lutz, interim dean for the College of Engineering, Forestry
      and Natural Sciences, and Susanna Maxwell, office of the Vice Provost
      for Academic Personnel, generously moved the project forward with
      that $50,000 donation.

      "As we get on toward retirement we began thinking about what we
      wanted to leave behind. We wanted to invest in the future and the
      students are the future," said Maxwell.

      Lutz knew the need

      The Physics and Astronomy Department has an exceptionally strong
      program. And because Lutz is an astrophysicist and former chair of
      the Department of Physics and Astronomy, he is familiar with the
      equipment and realized the current equipment did not offer a strong
      teaching component.

      So when David Cornelison, chair of the Department of Physics and
      Astronomy, made the proposal for the new telescope and planned to
      make that a top priority, Lutz knew the equipment would provide a
      concrete legacy toward the department and that the project was in
      need of a major donor, Maxwell added.

      During the first light ceremony Sept. 30, at the Atmospheric Research
      Observatory on NAU's south campus, the new telescope was officially
      named and placed into operation in time for the 2008 Festival of
      Science. In just the first four days the dome was open for the
      festival, approximately 500 people came to look through the eyepiece
      of the Lutz telescope, said Stephen Tegler, a professor of Physics
      and Astronomy.

      Designed with traditional eyepiece observation, the telescope also
      features an array of advanced technology. Some include the
      telescope's computer-controlled positioning system, which allows for
      pinpoint accuracy and easy movability when positioning the telescope
      for viewing an object, and a charged coupled device camera.

      The CCD camera is a useful tool for physics and astronomy majors
      doing undergraduate research that involves the collection of
      professional data .

      "It's great to have a scope we can actually do projects on," said
      Heidi Larson, a senior in the Physics and Astronomy Department and
      member of the Astronomy club.

      The observatory's 58-year-old infrared telescope could not produce
      images with resolution comparable to the newer one.

      "When it gets down to it, pretty pictures are great," said Kathy
      Eastwood, a professor of Physics and Astronomy, during the first
      light ceremony.

      Star light, star bright. Want to view the stars of the night?

      The Atmospheric Research Observatory offers a unique viewing
      experience for both the public and for physics and astronomy majors .

      The Lutz benefits from Flagstaff's dark skies policies and its
      elevation at 7,000 feet. That places the telescope above the Valley's
      light pollution and into the clean and clear mountain air, where the
      celestial twinkling can be observed.

      On each clear Friday evening from 7:30 to 10 p.m., the dome is open
      to the public. Anyone can view the stars, constellations or exotic
      nebular galaxies through one of the observatory's 10-inch reflectors
      or the Lutz. Staff from the Department of Physics and Astronomy,
      along with students and members of the Astronomy club, will be
      available during open viewing hours to assist in providing
      information and answering questions about the telescopes and universe
      above.

      In the works for the observatory include expanding open viewing hours
      to Saturday nights and creating a Web page in order to upload data
      and pictures captured by the telescope's CCD camera.

      The Atmospheric Research Observatory was originally constructed by
      Arthur Adel in 1952 with funding provided by the United States Air
      Force. In the early 1960s, astronauts such as Neil Armstrong visited
      the dome to search for lunar landing sites using the dome's original
      telescope.

      The Atmospheric Research Observatory is located along South San
      Francisco Street on NAU's south campus.

      To contact the Department of Physics and Astronomy, call (928) 523-
      2661 or e-mail astro.physic@....

      Michael Thiel is a NASA Space Grant intern this year at the Daily
      Sun.
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