The Iowa Robotic Telescope Facility (IRTF) is maintained
by the students and faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University
of Iowa. The construction and operation of this facility has been supported by grants
from the National Science Foundation, the Iowa Space Grant Consortium, and the College of Liberal Arts
and Sciences at the University of Iowa.
The IRTF operates the Rigel telescope, a 37cm f/14 classical Cassegrain reflector, located at the
Winer Observatory near Sonoita, Arizona. This facility is completely robotic and is scheduled in
advance at a central control facility at the University of Iowa. The primary use of the Rigel telescope is for
teaching in undergraduate laboratories at the University of Iowa. The telescope is also used for thesis
research by graduate students in the Department.
The Rigel Telescope is housed in the Winer Observatory roughly 50 miles southeast
of Tucson and 3 miles east of the town of Sonoita (pop. ~1500). The site is located
at an elevation of approximately 5000 feet, about 17 miles due east of the MMT Observatory
on Mt. Hopkins. The site receives about 15-20 inches of rain each year, almost three-fourths
of it during the summer monsoon season. Most years, they have approximately 200
clear nights, about one-third of which are photometric. The State of Arizona and
Santa Cruz County have strict outdoor lighting codes, and the local community also
supports dark skies.
Click on this link to see the Frequently Asked Questions for the
Rigel Telescope: Rigel Telescope FAQ
Latitude: 31° 39' 56.08" North
North Longitude: 110° 36' 06.42" West
Altitude: 1515.7 meters (4973 feet)
MPC Observatory Code: 857
The observatory's core instrument is a 0.37-meter (14.5-inch) F/14 Optical Mechanics telescope. The telescope is a
high-precision automated/robotic telescope with superb Classical Cassegrain optics fabricated by OMI's president James Mulherin.
The observatory control software is Talon, a Linux-based system developed over 10
years by OMI and now available as Open Source code for custom development. Talon
controls the entire observatory system (telescope, CCD camera, filter wheel, dome,
and so on) for automated and direct control, locally and remotely. For a detailed
description and specifications of the telescope and Talon see the Optical Mechanics,
Inc. web site (www.opticalmechanics.com).
NEW UPDATED CCD CHIP
The primary imaging instrument is a Finger Lakes Instrumentation ProLine camera.
This is a state of the art research-grade CCD camera with triple-stage cooling and
capable of maintaining stable temperatures to -65C below the ambient temperature.
The camera contains a Kodak KAF-16803 4096 x 4096 pixel CCD chip with 9-micron
pixels giving an image scale of 0.37 arc seconds/pixel un-binned and 0.73 arc seconds/pixel
binned 2 x 2. The area of the chip is greater than a 35mm format camera providing
a field of view of 25 x 25 arc minutes. The KAF-16803 chip has a high quantum efficiency (59% peak).
The Rigel Telescope uses a Finger Lakes Instrumentation filter
wheel with 50mm filters designed to integrate with their FLI
camera. The filter wheel holds R, G. B, H-Alpha, and Clear filters.
The Winer Observatory structure is a building approximately
105 feet long and 26 feet wide. Half of the building is a machine
shop, where the control room that houses the telescope control
computers and electronics is located. In this machine shop The
other half of the building is the observatory, covered by a
roof that rolls on crane rail over the machine shop portion
of the building.