USAF Academy Observatory

Department of Physics

USAF Academy Observatory

The Department of Physics at the Air Force Academy operates a 61-cm and a 41-cm telescope at an observatory site located just east of the cadet area overlooking the parade grounds. The observatory supports various physics classes, cadet and faculty research, and Physics and Astronomy Cadet Club activities. Visual observations, photography, CCD imaging and CCD spectroscopy are all possible.

Telescopes:

  • 61-cm Telescope
  • 41-cm Telescope
  • Telescope Control Room
  • Radio Telescope

Other Experiments:

  • LIDAR
  • All-sky camera
  • Magnetometer
  • Weather Station
  • Lightning Detector

History

The original observatory at the US Air Force Academy was a single ten foot diameter building with dome built in the 1960's near the cadet area. For nearly twenty years this building housed the Academy's small telescope (a 30-cm Schmidt telescope). In 1978, a 61-cm Boller and Chivens Cassegrain telescope was donated to the Academy. This telescope was purchased by the Air Force in 1965 and used at the Cambridge Research Lab, Hanscom Air Force Base in Boston, Massachusetts until 1977. After being acquired by the Academy, construction of a new building to house the telescope was started next to the original observatory building. This second building was completed in June 1979 and a first-light ceremony was held on 31 July 1979.

61 cm Telescope

The 61-cm telescope building was a two story, twenty five foot square building with dome. The upper floor was the observing level and was completely open to the dome except for two small equipment storage rooms. The lower floor had a work room, a darkroom, an office, and an additional equipment storage room. The 61-cm telescope was used for cadet classes, faculty research, open houses, and tours of various types with visual observations, 4"x5" plate photography, photographic spectroscopy, and photoelectric photometry possible.

In 1989, a 41-cm computer-controlled Cassegrain telescope was purchased and placed in the original smaller building. This telescope was equipped with a Photometrics liquid nitrogen cooled CCD as its sole instrument. The office in the 61-cm telescope building was converted into the control room for the 41-cm telescope.

In 1992, plans were made for a new Consolidated Education and Training Facility (CETF) for the Academy that would displace the existing observatory. Construction of the new observatory site was started in 1994 as part of the overall CETF project and was completed in January 1995. This new facility not only replaced the old observatory buildings with more space to house both the 61-cm and the 41-cm telescopes, but also included a classroom complete with Internet and video input capability. To mark the success of the first stage of CETF construction, an official opening ceremony for the USAFA Observatory was held on 16 March 1995 with the Academy Superintendent, Lt Gen Paul E. Stein, and the Dean of the Faculty, Brig Gen Ruben Cubero, in attendance.

U.S. Air Force Academy, USAFA, CO 80840, (719) 333-1110 DSN: 333-1110, Updated: 02 Sep 14
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