By Sydni Walker
COMMERCE, TX—The Texas A&M University Commerce Department of Physics and Astronomy has joined the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA).
“Joining the SARA Consortium is an ongoing part of our goal of becoming a center for astrophysical research and education in northeast Texas,” said Matt W. Wood, professor and head of the Physics & Astronomy department.
SARA is a telescope consortium that operates two 1-meter-class telescopes located at the premier observing locations Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, and Cerro Tololo International Observatory in Chile, South America. Both telescopes are remotely operable over the internet and will be used to enhance the research efforts of A&M-Commerce faculty and staff.
“The telescopes we now have access to are at two of the premier observatories in the world, selected for their crystal clear skies and remote mountaintop locations,” said Wood.
Both telescopes are located in desert climates, to provide an abundance of cloud-free nights. These telescopes will allow students and faculty to conduct research at top-tier facilities without having to travel because they are fully operable from any location.
“Access to the SARA telescopes in Arizona and Chile will be a huge benefit to our undergraduate and graduate students, as well as our faculty,” said Wood. “Upper division undergraduates are able to use the facilities for their faculty-sponsored research projects. We’re looking into ways we might incorporate the facilities into our undergraduate astronomy courses and labs.”
The research grade telescope at Kitt Peak gathers about five times as much light, and will deliver images two to three times shaper than the local telescope students and faculty now use. The only way A&M-Commerce astronomers would have access to telescopes this size without joining a consortium, is through proposal submissions which compete for acceptance against proposals worldwide.
SARA leases space from the National Science Foundation for the operation of the telescope on Kitt Peak. The National Optical Astronomy Observatories maintains Kitt Peak National Observatory, home to the world’s largest collection of telescopes and the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory.
For more information on the SARA consortium contact Matt A. Wood, professor and department head of the Physics & Astronomy department, or go to www.saraobservatory.org.