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G. W. Lockwood (Lowell Observatory)
Small telescopes are a valuable if sometimes underappreciated resource for ground based astronomy. Versatility, low cost, accessibility, and increasingly sophisticated automation combine to make research with small telescopes an important component of contemporary astronomy and planetary science. Lowell Observatory operates six research telescopes smaller than 2 m plus a 0.2 mm fiber optic solar feed. These permit a variety of intensive solar, planetary, stellar, and extragalactic research projects, several of very long duration. Unimpeded regular access to the telescopes is essential to the continuity and success of these programs and to their repeatedly renewed funding. I will describe three closely related long term projects including one that has operated without interruption since 1971. Although they have a common theme related to the variability of the sun and its influence upon planetary atmospheres, measurement targets have included several outer planets and their satellites, sunlike stars, and the sun itself. In response to serendipitous discovery and outside influences such as observations by spacecraft, the emphasis has shifted around a bit over the years, but the long terms goals have always seemed to indicate a clear path for further study.
These programs were supported by the Division of Atmospheric Sciences of NSF beginning in 1971 and by NASA beginning in 1996.