Expanding our universe with the Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory

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The Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT) at Lowell Observatory is nearing completion with first light expected in late 2011. Lowell Observatory has always been at the forefront of astronomical science and discovery. The DCT will further advance Lowell's research capabilities while bringing the fascinating world of astronomy to millions of people around the globe thanks to the partnership with Discovery Communications, Inc.

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  • Lowell Observatory has a rich and long history in the realm of astronomical discoveries. Founded in 1894 by its namesake, Percival Lowell, who came to Flagstaff from Massachusetts in search of dark, clear skies. An amateur astronomer, Lowell was keenly interested in planet Mars and devoted hundreds of hours to observations which resulted in drawings, maps, and the first Mars globes.
  • Lowell Observatory has a rich and long history in the realm of astronomical discoveries. Founded in 1894 by its namesake, Percival Lowell, who came to Flagstaff from Massachusetts in search of dark, clear skies. An amateur astronomer, Lowell was keenly interested in planet Mars and devoted hundreds of hours to observations which resulted in drawings, maps, and the first Mars globes.
  • In October 2003, formal partnership announced between Lowell Observatory and Discovery Communications to build the telescope. Mention John Hendricks, founder of Discovery and Lowell advisory board member. The DCT – an unprecedented partnership that offers Lowell & Discovery a means of pursuing joint mission / goal to share the wonders of science and technology with audiences around the world. Ultimate manifestation of public education and outreach! Discovery is filming a documentary called “The Making of the DCT” which will air when telescope is finished in 2011. Discovery will then share DCT research and the exciting world of astronomy, science, and technology with more than 1.5 billion subscribers around the globe.
  • These are the R/C instruments for detailed study.
  • PFA configuration – envisioned as a key feature of the DCT but will come later due to funding and schedule constraints.
  • The specifications reflect a design with considerable capability and operational flexibility, to provide a general-purpose instrument for Lowell astronomers for the foreseeable future. Because the mount is an alt-azimuth design, there is a zenith blind spot, hence the restriction on minimum zenith angle. The retargeting time of less than 8 seconds includes 5 seconds settling time. We require a blind pointing error, or bidirectional repeatability, of less than 2 arc-sec rms. And for changes in configuration between RC and Prime Focus, we will employ interchangeable top ends.
  • The specifications reflect a design with considerable capability and operational flexibility, to provide a general-purpose instrument for Lowell astronomers for the foreseeable future. Because the mount is an alt-azimuth design, there is a zenith blind spot, hence the restriction on minimum zenith angle. The retargeting time of less than 8 seconds includes 5 seconds settling time. We require a blind pointing error, or bidirectional repeatability, of less than 2 arc-sec rms. And for changes in configuration between RC and Prime Focus, we will employ interchangeable top ends.
  • The specifications reflect a design with considerable capability and operational flexibility, to provide a general-purpose instrument for Lowell astronomers for the foreseeable future. Because the mount is an alt-azimuth design, there is a zenith blind spot, hence the restriction on minimum zenith angle. The retargeting time of less than 8 seconds includes 5 seconds settling time. We require a blind pointing error, or bidirectional repeatability, of less than 2 arc-sec rms. And for changes in configuration between RC and Prime Focus, we will employ interchangeable top ends.
  • The specifications reflect a design with considerable capability and operational flexibility, to provide a general-purpose instrument for Lowell astronomers for the foreseeable future. Because the mount is an alt-azimuth design, there is a zenith blind spot, hence the restriction on minimum zenith angle. The retargeting time of less than 8 seconds includes 5 seconds settling time. We require a blind pointing error, or bidirectional repeatability, of less than 2 arc-sec rms. And for changes in configuration between RC and Prime Focus, we will employ interchangeable top ends.
  • M1 completed in Feb 2010 Delivered to DCT site at Happy Jack in spring 2010 (June)
  • Fabrication and trial assembly (fall/winter 2009) Mount installation (April – June 2010) Testing and acceptance (July-Aug 2010)
  • Fabrication and trial assembly (fall/winter 2009) Mount installation (April – June 2010) Testing and acceptance (July-Aug 2010)
  • Expanding our universe with the Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory

    1. 1. Expanding our Universe with the Discovery Channel Telescope
    2. 2. Lowell Observatory
    3. 3. Lowell Observatory <ul><li>Founded in 1894 “for the study of our solar system and to conduct pure research in the field of astronomical phenomena.” </li></ul>ADVANCED SCIENCE ! Percival Lowell
    4. 4. Lowell…. a tradition of discovery 1900s First comprehensive studies of Planet Mars; theorized Martian canals and intelligent life.
    5. 5. Lowell…. a tradition of discovery 1917 Vesto Melvin Slipher – first to measure enormous radial velocities of spiral galaxies and “red shift” effect. First evidence that universe is expanding.
    6. 6. Lowell…. a history of discovery 1930 Clyde Tombaugh discovers Pluto. 1940s Lowell pioneers field of infrared astronomy. 1950s – 1960s Lowell creates detailed lunar maps to support Apollo lunar landings. 1977 Lowell astronomers co-discover Uranus rings. 1986 Lowell astronomer discovers true rotational period of Halley’s Comet. 1990s Lowell first to identify existence of two composition classes of comets. 1990s Lowell partners with US Naval Observatory to construct and operate NPOI – produces the highest resolution images in the world.
    7. 7. Lowell…. a center of discovery 1998 - 2005 Deep Ecliptic Survey – Lowell discovered 1/3 of 1,500 known Kuiper Belt Objects.
    8. 8. Lowell…. a center of discovery 1998 - 2008 Lowell Observatory Near Earth Object Search (LONEOS) – Lowell astronomers discovered 289 NEAs and 42 comets using a 17 million pixel camera designed and built at the observatory.
    9. 9. Lowell…. on the forefront of discovery 2001 - 2015 New Horizons Mission – first spacecraft to study Pluto and Kuiper Belt Objects.
    10. 10. Lowell…. on the forefront of discovery 2007 Lowell astronomers discover largest known extrasolar planet , “TrES-04,” nearly 1,400 light years from Earth.
    11. 11. Lowell…. on the forefront of discovery 2008 First direct images taken of extrasolar planets (130 light years away).
    12. 12. Lowell…. on the forefront of discovery 2009 Lowell astronomer discovers clouds over tropic region of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
    13. 13. Lowell…. on the forefront of discovery 2009 – ongoing Kepler Mission – quest to discover terrestrial “Earth-like” planets in our galaxy. Lowell astronomer is co-investigator and science team leader. 7 exoplanets discovered to date.
    14. 14. A New Generation Telescope is Needed
    15. 15. Discovery Channel Telescope
    16. 16. Site Location
    17. 17. A Very Dark Site…
    18. 18. Happy Jack, Night View
    19. 19. DCT Quick Facts At first light (2011), DCT will operate in a Ritchey-Chrétien configuration utilizing a light-weight secondary mirror at the telescope’s top end. * Primary Mirror – 4.3 meters, weighs 6,700 lbs, 4 inches thick * Secondary Mirror – 1.4 meters, weighs 500 lbs, 5.5 inches thick * Rotating Dome – octagonal, reflective aluminum panels, naturally ventilated * Mount – altitude / azimuth design, weighs 270,000 lbs. * Instrument Cube – GWAVES, NIHTS, LMI, and DeVeny Spectrograph
    20. 20. DCT Instrumentation
    21. 21. Guider and Wavefront Sensor “GWAVES” Dual instrumentation system that corrects for distortions that degrade image quality. Autoguider : Keeps the DCT precisely pointed at its target by monitoring position of a guide star and issuing commands to the DCT to counteract drift. Wavefront Sensor : Actively measures image quality across the primary mirror and issues commands to “actuators” to precisely control the mirror’s shape and render best possible images.
    22. 22. Large Monolithic Imager “LMI”
    23. 23. DCT’s Wide Imaging Capability You would need 10 separate Kitt Peak telescope images to photograph Andromeda Galaxy OR ……….. Just 1 DCT image!
    24. 24. Science and Research with the DCT
    25. 26. Science with the DCT Kuiper Belt Spectral Survey Survey and detailed study of KBOs using NIHTS and LMI
    26. 27. Science with the DCT COMETS Source of comets, how they are formed, insight into origins of our galaxy thanks to DCT’s deep imaging capability rendered by LMI and NIHTS.
    27. 28. Science with the DCT GALAXIES Formation, evolution, and structure of small galaxies using DeVeny Spectrograph, NIHTS, and LMI.
    28. 29. Science with the DCT MASSIVE STARS Investigate competing models to accurately measure mass and luminosity of very large stars. Lowell astronomy team will use DCT’s LMI, NIHTS, and DeVeny Spectrograph
    29. 30. Science with the DCT EXTRA-SOLAR PLANETS Detection and detailed study of planets beyond our solar system using DeVeny Spectrograph, NIHTS, and LMI.
    30. 31. Construction of the Discovery Channel Telescope
    31. 32. DCT Groundbreaking - July 2005
    32. 33. Facility
    33. 34. Dome
    34. 35. Dome
    35. 36. 4.3-meter Primary Mirror
    36. 37. 4.3-meter Primary Mirror
    37. 38. Primary Mirror Active Support M1 Coldplate Lateral Supports Axial Supports Tangential Definer (3 places) Radial Bumper Axial Position Sensor
    38. 39. 1.4-meter Secondary Mirror
    39. 40. Optical Coating System
    40. 41. Mount Installation
    41. 42. Mount Installation
    42. 43. Mount Installation

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