Project Title: Building a Case for a Campus Observatory

Faculty Sponsor: Rajib Ganguly

Department: Computer Science, Engineering, Physics

Telephone: 810.252.5946


Project Description: A campus observatory can be an asset for student-led research projects, for experiential learning opportunities, for teaching purposes, as well as for public outreach and advertisement of our campus community. This project aims to lay groundwork for the potential establishment of a campus observatory through a three-phased approach. In the first phase of the project, we will conduct literature searches regarding the establishment of campus observatories in the Flint area, in the University of Michigan system, and among the ``Michigan 15.'' In the second phase, we will assess the resources that already exist on campus: telescopes, and a CCD camera. We will integrate the telescope and camera into a functioning system, characterize the performance of the camera, and establish a pipeline for processing data/images. In the final phase, we will make use of the telescope/camera system to take ad process images of the nigh sky available from different places around campus to assess image qualities, and brightness limits. Finally, we will assess what additional resources are necessary (e.g., a dome) in order to establish more permanently a campus observatory.

Student Tasks & Responsibilities: The student will take the lead in all three phases of the project. The first task will be to take the existing telescope and camera resources an integrate them into a single functioning system. More than likely, there will be parts that will need to be ordered. While parts are on order, the student will carry out the literature searches, and also begin the integration of the camera with a provided laptop and the software needed to take images. Once the integration is complete, the student will take a number of calibration frames to characterize the performance of the camera with particular attention to astronomical measurements. Once the ordered parts arrive, the student will integrate the camera with telescope and begin taking the entire system to different places around campus during the day as well as at night to assess the quality of astronomical images (e.g., brightness of the night sky, image distortions). The student will be required to present results at the UM-Flint Student Research Conference and the Meeting of Minds.

Minimum Student Qualifications: The student must have working familiarity with both the Windows operating system, as well as the UNIX/Linux operating system. The student must be adequately self-motivated to ensure timely progress is made, and be able to work some nights during the cold of the winter term.