Eastern Arizona College’s Payson Campus has recently become home to a state-of-the-art CDK500 Observatory System, courtesy of PlaneWave Instruments. This installation, generously funded by the Richard Caris Foundation, promises to revolutionize the way students engage with celestial exploration.

The Power of Precision

The CDK500 Observatory System represents PlaneWave’s commitment to precision and innovation in astronomical technology. With a 50-centimeter Corrected Dall-Kirkham (CDK) telescope, this system provides unparalleled clarity and detail in astronomic observations. Its advanced optics and design make it a top choice for both professional astronomers and educational institutions seeking the best in the industry.

“Our research telescope, funded by the Caris Foundation, arrived at the college on the morning of Monday, November 13th,” explained Russ Genet, retired astronomy professor leading the initiative. “Cameron Vittiglio from PlaneWave Instruments and Jeff Maifield from the college uncrated the telescope, and by Tuesday the 14th it was basically assembled [and ready for the sky that evening.]”

But the installation goes beyond just a telescope. A forward-looking initiative is underway to fully automate the observatory, enhancing the overall research experience for students. A funding request was submitted seeking support for essential components such as a dome, weather sensors, and observatory automation. The envisioned automation will enable remote access and control of the telescope on clear evenings, allowing student researchers to delve into cosmic observations from the convenience of their devices.

Empowering Student Researchers

The prospect of a fully automated, robotic observatory holds immense potential for student researchers at Eastern Arizona College. Once realized, the system will enable remote observations, giving students unprecedented access to the telescope’s capabilities. Clear nights will no longer be a barrier to exploration, as the telescope takes charge, autonomously observing pre-programmed targets. This not only fosters a culture of innovation but also prepares students for the evolving landscape of astronomical research.

Anticipating Support

The success of this project hinges on the support of the Richard Caris Foundation. With a funding decision expected by the end of December, there is optimism and excitement about the potential addition of a dome and observatory automation. The prospect of turning this vision into reality is a testament to PlaneWave’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of astronomical technology and Eastern Arizona College’s commitment to providing cutting-edge opportunities for its students.

Stay tuned for updates as we navigate these next steps of this project!

Photos provided by Sarah Owens and Veronica Folk

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