AAS 203rd Meeting, January 2004
Session 100 Research at Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions
Special Session, Wednesday, January 7, 2004, 10:00-11:30am, Regency V

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[100.03] Research at Appalachian State University's Dark Sky Observatory

D.B. Caton (Appalachian State University)

Astronomical research at Appalachian State University centers around the interests of the three observational astronomers on the faculty, and primarily involves observational work at our Dark Sky Observatory (DSO). ASU is a member of the 16-campus University of North Carolina system, and is a comprehensive university with about 13,000 students.

Besides the usual constraint found in such a setting (teaching loads of 9-12 hours/semester), we face the challenges of maintaining a significant observatory facility in an era of shrinking state budgets. The DSO facility is 20 miles from campus, adding additional problems. This scenario differs from those of the other panelists, who are at private institutions and/or use shared facilities.

The character of students at ASU also adds constraints--many have to hold part-time jobs that limit their participation in the very research that could contribute significantly to their success. Particularly, their need to leave for the summer for gainful employment at the very time that faculty have the most time for research is a loss for all concerned.

In spite of these challenges, we have a long record of maintaining research programs in eclipsing binary star photometry, stellar spectroscopy and QSO/AGN monitoring. Undergraduate students are involved in all aspects of the work, from becoming competent at solo observing to publication of the results and presentation of papers and posters at meetings. Graduate students in our Masters in Applied Physics program (emphasis on instrumentation), have constructed instruments and control systems for the observatory.

Most of what we have achieved would have been impossible without the support of the National Science Foundation. We have been fortunate to acquire funds under the Division of Undergraduate Education's ILI program and the Research at Undergraduate Institutions program. Among other things, this support provided our main telescope, CCD cameras, and some student stipends.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://www.dancaton.physics.appstate.edu/Observatories/DSO/Research.htm. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: catondb@appstate.edu

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