SFA Observatory in need of wire-mesh dishes
By JENNIFER VOSE, Sentinel staff
JUNE 4, 2002 -- The SFA Observatory is expanding, and observatory officials are asking for the community's help.
Dr. Dan Bruton said the observatory is working to install several radio telescopes. Student Michael Johnson started the project as part of his work toward a master's degree.
So far, the observatory has received half an acre of land from the SFA Beef Farm, which doubled the space they already had available. The project will be funded internally, largely through alumni donations, Bruton said. The money will be used to purchase the receivers needed to "tune in" to the stars.
Bruton said SFA would benefit from having several of the telescopes, because the image created by combining the signals of many is much clearer than that picked up by only one.
However, 10-foot radio dishes, such as the ones that were once used to pick up satellite signals, are still needed to complete the radio telescopes. Bruton said the observatory is looking for wire-mesh dishes in good shape.
Those who have dishes to donate may contact Dan Bruton or call Johnson at 462-9943 to arrange for them to be dismantled and picked up.
Once the project is completed, researchers from the university will be able to combine the images from the optical telescopes, which measure visible light, and radio telescopes, which measure light at other wavelengths. The information from the radio telescopes will allow researchers to learn more about the materials around stars, which produce less intense light than stars.
While optical telescopes are able to accurately measure light only in clear conditions, the radio telescopes could be used only in cloudy weather, and can be used to gather information 24-hours a day, even when researchers are not at the location.
The first project planned after the radio telescopes have been installed will be to map the Milky Way.