Thursday, August 19th, 2010 – 2:15 pm
High-powered, $275,000 Northwest Indiana Robotic (NIRo) Telescope to debut
After much anticipation, the Northwest Indiana Robotic (NIRo) Telescope, a state-of-the-art instrument that will permit cutting edge astronomical research and project-oriented science education, is set to become part of Northwest Indiana’s scientific culture.
The NIRo Telescope, valued at some $275,000, will be introduced to an audience of viewers Friday evening, Aug. 27 at Purdue University Calumet.
The telescope has been built and is housed in a dedicated observatory at the Calumet Astronomy Center at Buckley Homestead County Park in Lowell. There, it will be monitored by the Lake County Parks and Recreation Dept.
The 20-inch reflecting telescope uses the Ritchey-Chretien design favored by the majority of the world’s most powerful telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope. Equipped with a thermoelectrically cooled CCD (charge-coupled device) imager, the NIRo Telescope is capable of producing a distortion-free image covering a field of view as large as the full moon.
Purdue Calumet is supporting the majority of the project through a $150,000 grant it received from the National Science Foundation and approximately $125,000 in university and private funding.
According to Purdue Calumet Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Adam Rengstorf, the NIRo Telescope will contribute to expanded astronomical knowledge through high-quality research, improved and advanced Purdue Calumet astronomy and physics course curricula, improved science education in area middle schools and robust opportunities for community outreach activities.
The Calumet Astronomy Center (CAC) is a collaborative effort of Purdue Calumet through physics and astronomy professors Rengstorf and Shawn Slavin, the Calumet Astronomy Society, and the Lake County Parks and Recreation Department. The Calumet Astronomy Center is assuming a role of coordinating astronomical education, outreach and research in Northwest Indiana. The NIRo Telescope joins the Calumet Astronomical Society’s Thomas Conway Observatory, already in operation, at the CAC.
“The NIRo observatory will provide a platform for education and research featuring rich datasets of various astronomical phenomena,” Slavin said. “Purdue Calumet students will soon have the ability to learn the science of astronomy through discovery from authentic data that they themselves obtain with the robotic telescope.”
Rengstorf added, “The NIRo Telescope will enable laboratory sections of our introductory astronomy courses to be completely revamped to incorporate actual data. More advanced observational experiments will be available to our physics majors; independent research projects also will be possible; and there is the potential for cross-over projects with engineering, mathematics and computer science students.”
Purdue Calumet’s Center for Science and Technology Education will work with astronomers at Purdue Calumet to design hands-on astronomy projects using the robotic telescope that will allow secondary students to study known sky objects and conduct research.
Additional information about the project is available by visiting www.calumetastronomy.org