AAS 199th meeting, Washington, DC, January 2002
Session 22. Astronomy Education Resources
Display, Monday, January 7, 2002, 9:20am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall

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[22.01] Undergraduate Astronomy Instruction with an Automated Observatory

M. N. Fanelli, C. Littler, D. Weathers (University of North Texas)

The University of North Texas (UNT) currently enrolls about 2400 students per academic year in survey astronomy classes. All students complete a 1-credit laboratory course, designed to fulfill a laboratory science curriculum requirement. As one element in our laboratory program, we are developing an automated observatory for use by these students. The UNT Monroe Observatory, located at a dark site 45 miles from campus, has been designed with a roll-off roof covering two (expandable to four) observing stations. Each station consists of a Celestron 14-inch telescope on a Paramount GT-1100 base from Software Bisque, outfitted with an AP7 CCD camera from Apogee Instruments. We intend to remotely operate these stations from the university in Denton. We are developing an integrated astronomy laboratory sequence, employing digital imagery from the remote observatory, multimedia presentations in a planetarium, and table-top experiments in a lab setting. The automated observatory will permit students to conduct individualized observational astronomy experiments in a manner similar to those employed in astronomical research.

As of October 2001, we have acquired equipment for two observing stations, prepared the site, completed the building design, and signed a construction contract. We anticipate first use during the 2002-2003 academic year. The UNT Observatory has been funded in part through the National Science Foundation's CCLI grant program, #9950630.

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