Norman L. Markworth

Regents’ Professor of Astronomy

Director of the SFASU Observatory

Education and Experience

I received my B.S. in Physics from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Knowing I wanted to do astronomy and not wanting to freeze to death, I did my Ph.D. work at the University of Florida in Gainesville. I took my Ph.D. from Florida in August 1977.

I came to Stephen F. Austin in the Autumn of 1978 after spending one year at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield.


Research Interests

My dissertation research was in the field of close binary star dynamics. Most of my telescope time is still devoted to the photometry of close binary star systems. Analyzing the light variations of the stars as they orbit will yield a wide array of astrophysical and geometrical parameters for the star system. My current interest is in modeling peculiar spotted stars that occur in close binary star systems.

My second research field is the computer control of telescopes and telescope instrumentation. This effort started modestly enough when we were collimating the 18-inch telescope at the SFASU Observatory in 1979. The old tracking motor refused to work, I had a graduate student needing observations, and a replacement motor would take nine months to deliver. Using a spare $25 stepping motor and about $5 in electrical components, we were back in operation in one month.

Today the SFASU Observatory boasts two highly automated telescopes devoted to photometry. The 18-inch telescope found its first use in the South Pacific, helping to locate lunar landing sites prior to NASA's Apollo program. It is equipped with a Photometrics, Ltd. Star 1 CCD camera attached to a CompuScope computer controlled filter wheel to provide CCD Photometry. I wrote the operating system which controls both the photometer and the telescope.

Along with Bruce Rafert (now at Michigan Technological University) and Bennett Montes (our shop machinist), I built the 41-inch telescope in 1983/84. It is equipped with a three channel photoelectric photometer based on the University of Texas design, which was also built in our shop.


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