University of Alabama Observatory - 16" Telescope

University of Alabama telescope

We are pleased to announce the installation of UA's new telescope in the observatory atop Gallalee Hall. This new 16-inch (0.4-meter) reflector replaced the venerable 10-inch refractor which had been in use from 1950-2004. It is equipped for a wide range of public-education and training activities.

Facts and Figures
Telescope model CCT-16
Manufacturer DFM Engineering (Longmont, Colorado)
Optical arrangement Ritchey-Chretien reflector
Focal length 3.2 meters (128 inches)
Visual magnification 50-575x
Installation January 2005
Pointing accuracy 5-7 arcseconds
Tracking accuracy 1.5 arcseconds
CCD imager Santa Barbara Instrument Group STL-6303E
CCD field 20 by 30 arcminutes
Guide telescope Meade 5-inch f/10 apochromat
UA Observatory at night

The telescope is equipped with a range of auxiliary equipment:

  • A set of eyepieces for visual use, from wide fields to high powers for the planets.
  • A video system continually displaying the guide telescope's field in the control room.
  • A Celestron Neximage webcam system, for high-speed and high-definition images of the moon and planets.
  • 35mm cameras, for quick and easy shots of the Moon and planets.
  • Adapter for consumer digital cameras behind the eyepiece.
  • A research-grade CCD imaging system from Santa Barbara Instrument Group. This can deliver accurately calibrated as well as very pleasing images of even faint targets, and can also correct the telescope's tracking during long exposures. A remote-controlled sliding mirror allows this use to be quickly alternated with eyepiece, webcam, or 35mm camera. The camera is equipped with standard UBVRI filters for measurements from the near-ultraviolet to the near-infrared.
  • A spectrograph, the SGS from Santa Barbara Instrument Group. This has a dedicated CCD camera as well to guide the telescope while exposing the spectrum.
  • An Orion Starshoot color-imaging cooled CCD imager.

    A control room beneath the observatory dome is set up for data taking with the CCD and webcam, video from the guide scope, and remote pointing and focus of the telescope in all modes.

    Here are some sample images from our early use of the telescope. These are the kinds of images regularly taken by students in the Astronomy 203 (Observational Astronomy) course. Each image links to a full-sized version. More recent results from the telescope may be seen here.

    Lunar images with 35mm and digital cameras
    35mm photograph of sunrise on the multiringed lunar basin Mare Orientale. This feature is right at the edge of the lunar nearside, so we seldom have such a good view. Photograph of Mare Orientale
    Image of the region of Mare Spumans and Mare Undarum at the moon's crescent phase, with a Nikon digital camera. Lunar maria Spumans and Undarum in crescent pahse

    NexImage webcam images
    Webcam image of Saturn Webcam image of lunar crater Copernicus at sunrise
    Saturn, 28 Mar 2005 Sunrise on lunar crater Copernicus
    SBIG CCD images
    M65/M66 galaxy image Galaxy pair M65/M66 (NGC 3623/3627). This is a total of 16 minites' exposure through a red filter, showing off the camera's wide field of view. Read more: M65 M66.
    CCD image of NGC 3079 and double quasar Edgewise spiral galaxy NGC 3079 and satellite galaxy (bottom), and gravitationally lensed double quasar images Q0957+561 at top right. Red-light image, 24-minute total exposure. Read more about the double quasar.
    Red-light image of Crab Nebula Red-filtered image of the Crab Nebula, the remnant of a supernova explosion seen in A.D. 1054. Faintly visible near its center is the pulsar, a tiny spinning neutron star whose magnetic field continues to accelerate the nebula's expansion. Read more about the Crab.
    Red-light image of globular cluster M3 Globular star cluster Messier 3 in the constellation Canes Venatici, from 12 minutes' exposure in red light. Read more about M3.

    The astronomers and students at UA owe debts of gratitude to the Dean and department chairman for supporting this major upgrade, and to Danny Whitcomb, Tom Hunter, Jason Taylor, and David Key for wide-ranging support in removing the old telescope, preparing the site, and making the site safer and more convenient for use.

    The University of Alabama Astronomy Group also maintains telescopes under the darker skies of Moundville Archaeological Park, which are used both for classes and occasional public events. The astronomy viewing location is marked on this map.

    UA Astronomy | Dept. of Physics and Astronomy | University of Alabama

    (ostentatious throat-clearing) "The views, opinions, and conclusions expressed in this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of The University of Alabama or its officers and trustees. The content of this page has not been reviewed or approved by The University of Alabama, and the author is solely responsible for its content. "
    Last changes:  May 2006