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