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University of Iowa Rigel Telescope/Winer Observatory

Rigel World Map

Observatory Site

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

Site Data

Latitude: 31° 39' 56.08" North 

North Longitude: 110° 36' 06.42" West

Altitude: 1515.7 meters (4973 feet)

MPC Observatory Code: 857


rigel 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 (

CCD Camera

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).

Filter Wheel and Filters

ubvri 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.

Telescope Enclosure

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. rigel roof open
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