For nearly 16 years Middlebury College's Observatory at Bicentennial Hall has benefitted from a DFM 24" telescope. The initial installation also included a wide array of options including: Azimuth dome control, the remote controlled version of the imaging guide acquire module with motorized off-axis guiding, the DFM remote monitor and keyboard control system and a GPS receiver for setting the Telescope Control System time.
This original DFM 24" telescope package has served Middlebury College well and has propelled the Observatory into a flourishing, interdisciplinary College resource. It has not only supported the Physics department over the years by offering students a variety of courses for both majors and non-majors, but has also encouraged other curricular programs and community academic activities for both local school children and the adult public.
DFM updated the 24" telescope with its modern Telescope Control System (TCSGalil), digital motor controllers, absolute encoders, modified instrument support infrastructure, and motorized optical tube covers.
Technology has advanced considerably regarding telescopes and astronomical instrumentation over the last 15-20 years, so implementing a set of upgrades was inevitable. New technological and engineering developments transformed the Observatory, primarily the 24" telescope and its new control system, TCSGalil.
"Multiple core components that were worn, from hardware to software and from mechanical to electrical, outdated and underperforming features were successfully replaced. The primary and secondary CCD cameras were replaced with modern, more quantum-efficient instruments supporting higher data transfer rates. Additionally, a wide variety of other accessories and auxiliary components were improved, upgraded, or replaced. The dome has been upgraded with a modern control system and slip ring electrical conductor. These upgrades have already substantially increased observing time and telescope use at Middlebury College Observatory", said Jonathan Kemp,Telescope Specialist at McCardell Bicentennial. "It has elevated the program as a model college observatory in the region that will better educate and connect students and the surrounding Vermont community to the science of astronomy."
"One of the most remarkable elements of the project was that the Middlebury College Observatory upgrades were accomplished over an expedited schedule," Kemp explained. "Even though the preparation and planning for the upgrades stretched out over eight months, the time spent was well worth the investment. The core upgrades, with all the coordination and logistics occurred over three intense months of one summer allowing for uninterrupted 2015 Fall classes. This precise scheduling included DFM deconstructing and rebuilding much of the 24" telescope."
Since telescope and observatory upgrades occurred between semesters, classs chedules were not interrupted, students looking for an introduction to Astronomy and Physics reaped the benefits of the upgrades performed the previous summer. They were introduced to a more robust, capable, user-friendly, and efficient astronomical observatory with which to explore the Universe.
In the future, the Observatory will be used not only for teaching and research, but additionally as an integral part of the community outreach program and stargazing events to encourage astronomy awareness in young school children.
Telescope Control Systems (TCSGalil)
TCSGalil Standard Features
CCT-24" Telescope Features