Small observatories are most often used to reproduce classic astronomical measurements from legacy experiments in the history of astronomy. Occasionally, they make new important discoveries or develop new and novel approaches.
In this proposal, we aim to establish the computational infrastructure to support the Community College of Rhode Island’s Meade 16-inch Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope housed at the Jacoby Observatory in Warwick, RI. The main goal is to set up the computational analysis pipeline for the telescope CCD image and spectrographic data sets. The data files will be processed within both UNIX and Python programming shells using the IRAF data reduction software. Remote computational resources (likely at URI) will be integrated into the computational workflow to enable fast and efficient processing. The supported student would also receive exposure to techniques in CCD image processing and analysis, and that would add to the technical skill of the student beyond script writing, and running analysis routines on remote systems. The scripts and analysis codes will maintained in a new CCRI GitHub repository.
As some examples of the science that would be enabled upon the set up a computational analysis pipeline:
• Redshift distance measurement of Quasar 3C273. 3C273 is a 13th magnitude quasar located in the constellation Virgo, viewable in springtime from the Northern hemisphere. One of the first quasars to be discovered, it is the brightest in the sky, and viewable from a 16-in telescope even in light polluted skies. With extensive observations of Hydrogen-alpha emission lines using the high resolution grating on the LHIRESIII spectrograph, and then stacking and averaging several exposures to create a spectrum, the redshift can be determined by comparison with the known value of the Hydrogen alpha reference line (6562.8 A) to determine the distance to the Quasar.
• Bright Galaxy Rotation Curve. With an slit angular diameter of ~20arcminutes projected onto the sky, it should be possible to align a medium-high dispersion grating (R=8000) along the axis of an edge-on spiral galaxy, such as NCG5907, to measure a dispersion of H-a emissions from HII regions located through the disk. It would be possible to collect spectroscopic data near H-a along the edge on diameter of the galaxy, then create a spectrum based on a flat-ration curve in the order of ~200km/s Doppler-shifted emission lines.
• Beta-Lyrae Binary Star Orbit. β-Lyrae is a Be binary star system that exhibits bright H-alpha emission due to the presence of an mass transfer accretion disk around the Aa2 companion. With an orbital period of 13days, the H-a line of β-Lyrae can be sampled over several nights to reveal a horn-profile that can be used to estimate the velocity of the rotating system.
• 3-D Velocity Vector of Barnard’s Star. Barnard’s Star is a 9.5 magnitude star located in the constellation Ophiuchus, and the closest start to the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere. At a distance of 2 parsecs (6 light-years), it has one of the largest proper-motions measureable in the sky, roughly 10 arcseconds/year. Barnard’s Star is also a halo-component star, which gives it a high (perpendicular) velocity in the hundreds of km/s relative to the motion of the Sun, a disk star. This affords the opportunity of constructing a full 3-D velocity vector of the star relative to the Sun’s motion around the galactic center. The project would involve using a medium dispersion grating to collect spectroscopic data of Barnard’s Star, construct a spectrum, and measure the radial velocity component of the star from Doppler shifted absorption lines in the stars spectrum. The radial velocity data could be added to the stars proper motion on the sky to identify the stars true velocity component relative to the Sun.