Automation of Eastern Kentucky University Observatory and Preliminary Data


Physics, Geosciences, and Astronomy

Department Name When Scholarship Produced

Physics and Astronomy

Document Type


Publication Date



Eastern Kentucky University is a regional comprehensive institution located in Richmond, Kentucky. Its service area includes much of the eastern part of Kentucky, commonly referred to as Appalachia. As such, Eastern has truly been a “school of opportunities” for the region. We offer three astronomy courses and one of them, AST 135, has an outdoor lab component, in which the students observe the moon and the brightest planets using 6-inch SCT. To expand our offerings by adding advanced classes in observational astronomy, and with support from the University and a small grant from the AAS (Small Research Grants), we constructed a small observatory for that purpose.

We have a 14-inch telescope (C14 from Celestron), with a research grade mount (Paramount ME), housed permanently in a two-room facility. The telescope room has a retractable roof and the control room is insulated against the elements. The telescope is conveniently located near campus, in a location away from city lights and vehicular traffic, with access via a secure gate. The observatory is on a concrete pad poured directly onto the ground, to minimize vibrations. The instrument package consists of a SBIG STL-6303E CCD camera with filter wheel and full complement of photographic, narrow-band, and photometric filters (Ha and UBVRI). Courtesy of the AAS grant, we also have a temperature-compensated focuser (TCF-S3i), off-axis guider, and SBIG AO-L adaptive optics accessory.

Our first step has been the measurement of our CCD transformation parameters, to assess the capabilities of our telescope-camera combination. We imaged a standard photometric field from Landolt (1992) (R.A. 09h 21m 32s, Dec. +02˚ 47' 00" (J2000, Plate 38 of Landolt). Data were obtained with a time integration of 90 seconds, binned 2 × 2 (~1 arcsec/pixel) at air mass X = 1.31. We determined the CCD transformation parameter as described by the AAVSO document “Computing and Using CCD transformation coefficients” (Cohen 2003). We obtained the following:

Tbv = 1.329; Tvr = 1.000; Tri = 0.912; Tv = – 0.065; Tr = – 0.042

We estimate a 5% uncertainty in our measurements. This past summer, with student support, we were able to perform our first measurements of light curves, particularly of the AAVSO Short Period Pulsator Program—suggested d Scuti star DY Her and the RR Lyrae stars UU Boo and XX Cyg. Our light curves (we have two complete BVRI sets for DY her) were not corrected using our transformation parameters, but just compared with the reference stars provided by AAVSO. We will present the data obtained and our current efforts in automation of the observatory operations. We have the necessary hardware to monitor the environment via video and remotely operate the roof and the telescope.


Presented at the 100th Annual Meeting of the AAVSO, October 8, 2011.

Journal Title

Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers