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Working Nights at McDonald Observatory

Image from McDonal Observatory staff.

Many students, staff, and astronomers have worked and collected data at McDonald Observatory at Ft. Davis, TX. The majority of the work being done at the 82 inch telescope named after Otto Struve who was a Russian-American Astronomer who observed a system known as the Struve-Sahade Effect in 1937. In addition, data may also be collected at the 102 inch telescope called the Harlan J. Smith Telescope.

For years, a traditional charged-coupled device (CCD) camera had been used to collect the data on interacting binary systems with the primary being either a blackhole or a white dwarf. Due to circumstances, that is no longer the case. A newer CCD camera, the ProEM (manufactured by Princeton Instruments) sits at the bottom of the telescope and no longer at the tip-point of its structured frame. Information on the new camera can be found here for further reading.

Work at the telescopes starting time depends on what instrument is being used. The telescope is computer operated and checked on periodically to insure there is no possibility of accidents to occur. A majority of the time, astronomers sit in the conjoining control room filled with computers, servers, and some tables. Good data depends on the weather and the position and luminosity of the moon. Data taken is copied to an independent drive and then calibrated and analyzed.

As a researcher it is a must to remember: 1) Don't break the telescope, 2) follow all safety rules and procedures, and 3) be alert.

It is a fun and wonderful experience for the students and researchers to work and manage all different parts of collecting, calibrating, and analyzing data that is required to research certain different sub-fields in the astronomy.

Friends of McDonald: Click Here

McDonald Observatory: Click Here

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