DFM Engineering, Inc.
1035 Delaware Ave. Unit D
Longmont, CO 80501
Phone: 303-678-8143
Fax: 303-772-9411

University of Alabama 16-Inch Telescope Installation


The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa chose DFM Engineering to supply their latest telescope. Dr. William Keel, professor of astronomy at the university wanted a modern, professional, computer controlled telescope with well proven software including remote observing capabilities.

The University purchased the telescope to replace one that had served as the primary telescope since 1950.

The older telescope was purchased by an antique telescope collector in Virginia.

The department of physics and astronomy is housed within the College of Arts and Sciences.

The department is now able to offer monthly public education and training activity nights at Gallalee Hall which houses the new 16" telescope as well as initiating a "Friends of the Observatory" organization to encourage popular interest in astronomy.

The College is the University's largest division and the largest public liberal arts college in the state with 6,600 students and 360 faculty that access the telescope and observatory facilities.

Students from the college have won numerous national awards for academic achievements.

In January 2005, DFM Engineering installed the 16" Ritchey-Chrétien reflector in the school's observatory dome on top of Gallalee Hall located on the UA campus in Tuscaloosa.

Mark Kelley, vice president of engineering at DFM headed the installation team.

The installation went smoothly and the alignment and testing procedures were performed quickly.

The DFM telescope has two and one-half times the light gathering power of the old telescope, provides precise computer controlled positioning, and supports digital imaging instruments.

The control room is located beneath the observatory. It contains the computer control system, monitors, and software to remotely control the telescope.

One computer monitor displays a star chart with a circle showing where the telescope is pointing.

The other monitor displays the coordinates of the telescope's position, the telescope focus position, the telescope tracking rates, and other telescope information.

The telescope may be commanded to point to stars and galaxies by clicking on the star chart or by entering the celestial coordinates of the object.

A set of telescope indicated star positions versus catalog star positions data was taken which allowed the DFM team to determine any residual Azimuth and Elevation misalignments.

After a few pointing runs, the DFM team was able to demonstrate RMS pointing of better than 12 arc seconds and confirm the tracking performance of the telescope.

As Dr. Keel piloted the new telescope using an oversized remote control, he mused, "This telescope has created quite a buzz especially among the students. The new setup will allow the students to track and digitally photograph objects over long periods, permitting probes farther into the universe."

Capella, the bright star in the constellation Auriga, the Charioteer, was the new telescope's official first light image, viewed by Dr. Keel. It emerged quickly after the sun fell below the horizon. "OK," Keel said. "This one I'd like to capture!"

The University of Alabama's astronomy department has a number of extremely motivated individuals who participated in training on the new telescope with the computer control system.

Saturn appeared an hour after dusk with almost all of its rings visible. "Saturn always looks great," Mark Kelley said as he peered through the eyepiece.

The new DFM 16" telescope at University of Alabama is a huge success.


University of Alabama

College of Arts and Sciences


Telescope Control System (TCS-Sky)