In 2008, Yale purchased 15 nights per year for 10 years on the Keck 10-meter telescopes from The California Institute of Technology. There are also up to 5 nights per year available for collaborative projects between Caltech and Yale. The twin Keck Telescopes are the world's largest optical and infrared telescopes and they stand on the summit of Hawaii's dormant Mauna Kea volcano. Because of the large size of the 10-meter primary mirrors, and the application of a laser guide star adaptive optics system, which overcomes atmospheric distortion, the Keck telescopes offer the greatest potential sensitivity and clarity available in astronomy. The Keck telescopes offer an impressive suite of instruments. There are a wide array of spectrographs, including DEIMOS, the most advanced optical spectrograph in the world, capable of gathering spectra from 130 galaxies or more in a single exposure, HIRES, NIRSPEC, OSIRIS and LRIS. There are also two near infrared cameras and an interferometer which combines light from the two Keck telescopes to provide the effective resolution of a telescope 85 meters in diameter. Yale researchers, including faculty, graduate students and postdocs, are already using this valuable resource to provide science with impact for the community-at-large. As of 2011, Yale operates Keck remotely from the Yale-NASA Keck remote observing facility at Yale.
Yale is a 17% partner in the WIYN consortium, which operates a modern 3.5-meter optical telescope located on Kitt Peak in Arizona. The WIYN telescope is one of the best imaging telescopes in the world. Its modern instrumentation includes a CCD camera with a 10 arcminute field of view (Mini-Mosaic or OPTIC), an infrared imager with tip-tilt correction (WHIRC), and a bench spectrograph which is fed by fibers from either a multi-object, fiber-positioning robot (Hydra) or an integral field unit for studies of extended objects (SparsePak). WIYN is now building a major new instrument, the One Degree Imager (ODI). ODI will utilize both WIYN's one degree field of view and excellent image qualtity. The focal plane of the optical imager will be sampled with 0.1" pixels, or 1 Gigapixels in total. The sharpness of images will be actively improved by correcting images for tip/tilt image motion during the integration. Corrections will be done over the entire field of view, using a novel detector technology called Orthogonal Transfer Array CCD, making ODI a unique and competitive instrument in the era of wide-field surveys. Much of Yale's time on the telescope is used for graduate dissertation projects. Over the past few years, the dissertations of 6 Yale graduate students have been based primarily on WIYN data. Among the PhD projects carried out are studies of the stellar populations of nearby dwarf galaxies and studies of the kinematics and stellar populations of environmentally disturbed cluster galaxies.
SMARTS (Small and Moderate Aperture Research Telescope System) is a consortium that operates the small and medium telescopes at Cerro Tololo in Chile. There are four telescopes: 0.9m with a 2K CCD camera; 1.0m, with a 4K CCD camera; 1.3m with ANDICAM, a dual optical and infrared imager; and 1.5m with the RC Spectrograph and CPAPIR, an infrared imager. Yale, as one of the twelve consortium members, uses about 16% of the time on all SMARTS telescopes. Current projects include looking for extra-solar planets using microlensing techniques, optical observations of transient X-ray sources, tracking the optical/IR afterglow of gamma-ray bursts, imaging of the immediate solar neighborhood, and spectroscopic observations of variable stars. Target-of-opportunity objects and synoptic observations, which are difficult to do at other observatories due to time constraints, are common with SMARTS. Several completed and ongoing PhD theses by Yale graduate students make extensive use of SMARTS data.
The QUEST (Quasar Equatorial Survey Team) Variability Surveys use large area CCD cameras designed and built at Yale University to instrument the large fields of views of Schmidt telescopes. There have been three phases of surveys. Phase 1 (1998-current) used the 1 m CIDA Schmidt telescope at Llano el Hato in Venezuela with the 16 CCD QUEST 1 camera. Phase 2 (2003-2008) used the Oschin Schmidt Telescope at the Palomar Observatory with the 10 sq degree 112 CCD QUEST 2 camera and covered 15000 sq degrees repeatedly in 7 filters as well as repeated scans with a broad RG610 filter. This data is on spinning disc at Yale and is available to all Yale researchers. Phase 3 (2009-current) is presently using the ESO Schmidt telescope with the 10 sq degree QUEST camera to carry out a Southern Hemisphere Variability Survey. The survey will study of a large sample (500 to 1000) of low redshift Type Ia supernovae and will allow for such science as a continued search for Trans Neptunian Objects in our own solar system, a search for RRLyraes and a study on quasar variability. All Yale researchers are welcome to use this data for their own science.
Yale is a member of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III), a program that is focusing on three scientific themes: dark energy and cosmological parameters; the structure, dynamics and chemical evolution of the Milky Way; and the architecture of planetary systems. Begun in 2008, and continuing for six years, the four surveys of SDSS-III are using the wide-field spectroscopic capability of the Apache Point Observatory's 2.5-meter telescope. As a member of SDSS-III, all Yale researchers - faculty, postdocs and students - can participate in the survey and have access to all the data taken by the survey.
Members of the department are routinely awarded time on NASA and ESA space-based telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, Kepler, the X-ray telescopes CHANDRA and RXTE, the infrared Spitzer and Herschel telescopes, and the gamma-ray telescope Fermi. There is significant synergy between these space-based missions and ground-based telescopes, and many students are carrying out dissertations combining space-based data with ground-based data obtained with Yale telescopes. Other projects utilize the facilities available at the national optical observatories (e.g. Kitt Peak and Cerro Tololo) and radio facilities (e.g. the VLA and Green Bank).
The Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium (LFOP) is a facility of the Astronomy Department at Yale University. It was dedicated in May 2005 and made possible by the generous support of James Leitner ('75) and Sandra Leitner. The facility has two Ash domes which contain a 16" LX200 Meade reflecting telescope and a refurbished 8" Grubb refractor that was originally purchased by the astronomy department to observe the 1882 transit of Venus. Additionally there is an observing deck with piers for four 8" telescopes and a 3-meter radio telescope on the roof. The primary use of the observatory is undergraduate research and education. The facilities are used for classes at Yale College, such as Astronomy 155 and 255. LFOP is also used for public outreach events, and it is open to the public on Tuesdays, with public observing on clear nights. The main building houses a planetarium, lecture hall and museum, in addition to the warm room for the 16". LFOP is also frequently used by STARRY, the Yale undergraduate astronomy club.
The principal telescope of the Cesco Observatory is a Double Astrograph consisting of two lenses each 20-inches in diameter, one designed for blue light and the other for visual light. The lenses focus the light separately onto two detectors, which until 2000, were photographic plates with dimensions of 17 x 17 inches. In that year the detectors were changed to two CCD cameras, the visual one covering 56x56 arcminutes, while the blue one covers 22x22 arcminutes. The photographic plates were purchased in the US, shipped to Argentina, where they were exposed in the telescope, developed and then shipped back to the US. In New Haven, Connecticut the plates were measured with a precision measuring machine and the analyses performed which enabled the Yale Southern Proper Motion Program (SPM) to determine the absolute angular motions, or proper motions, of the stars. Observational data from the CCD cameras are stored on DVD disks and analyzed either in Argentina or New Haven depending on the science program.
Image Credits: (Keck) NASA/JPL (WIYN) Mark Hanna/NOAO/AURA/NSF; (SMARTS) Fred Walter; (National Facilities) NASA, H. Ford (JHU), G. Illingworth (UCSC/LO), M.Clampin (STScI), G. Hartig (STScI), the ACS Science Team, and ESA
At a Glance
W.M. Keck Observatory
The QUEST Variability Surveys
National and International Facilities
Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium
The Yale Southern Observatory (YSO)
Departmental telescope time allocation website
Keck Remote Observing Facility Website
WIYN Remote Observing Website
Yale Resources Powerpoint (2012)