AAS 202nd Meeting, May 2003
Session 10 Astronomy Education: Middle School to College
Poster, Monday, May 26, 2003, 9:20am-6:30pm, West Exhibit Hall

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[10.09] Mini-Spec: A Compact, Fiber-Coupled, VPH Grating Spectrograph for Small Observatories

H. L. Nations (Nightwatch Observatory), P. Haynes (University of Wyoming), P. Brewer (Ohio Northern University)

We report on the development and testing of what we believe to be the first VPH grating based spectrograph developed primarily for use at telescopes of modest aperture. To date, the most common instrument suite for such observatories is typically that of a CCD camera with attached filter wheel. While there is no doubt that a wide range of interesting and good science has been done with such instrumentation, the addition of a robust and easy to operate spectrograph would greatly increase the utility of such installations. While some commercial spectrographs exist for use on small telescopes, the authors have found them to be, with few exceptions, either inefficient, difficult for inexperienced students or amateurs to use, or not remotely operable. Correcting these deficiencies is thus the primary motivation for Mini-Spec. The design of Mini-Spec has been influenced by previous work the authors have done on a full-sized fiber-coupled spectrograph (Nations and Pierce, 2002). Mini-Spec uses some of those original design features, only reduced drastically in size. This size reduction (the spectrograph fits within a 7 inch cube), along with a much more careful choice of some critical components, has resulted in a dramatic reduction in cost. The spectrograph uses a highly efficient 1200 l/mm, 40 mm diameter vph grating on loan from Richard Rallison. Focus, central wavelength selection, and comparison lamps are all controlled via an RS-232 link and a custom Visual Basic GUI. Sample spectra of stellar and non-stellar targets will be presented along with a discussion of research projects admirably suited for this instrument.

Funding for equipment has been provided by a NASA EPSCoR grant to PI Ron Canterna. HLN has been partially funded by a Wyoming Space Grant Faculty Fellowship.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #3
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.