The Observatory at the University of California, Irvine, is located in the fields on the western side of the campus.  The observatory has a large computer-controlled telescope (shown in the photograph on the left) and numerous other smaller, portable, telescopes.  Currently the observatory is used in the introductory astronomy series taught by the Department of Physics & Astronomy, in particular, Physics 20C – Observational Astronomy. In addition, undergraduate physics majors can do experiments with the telescopes in the Physics 139 Observational Astrophysics class and the Physics 121 Advanced Lab class. The Astronomy Club at UCI meets at the observatory nearly every two weeks to explore the night sky using these telescopes. We also host Visitor Nights that are open to the public and tours for interested school groups and scout troops.

The observatory’s main computer-controlled f/8 telescope has a 24-inch primary mirror and 8.5-inch secondary mirror. The telescope is operated in person or remotely via the ethernet with a LINUX-based control program called UCIROB which was written by Professor Tony Shoup. Installed at the Cassagrain focus are a variety of eyepieces, an electronic camera, and a spectrograph. People can view astronomical objects such as planets,  star clusters, planetary nebulae and galaxies with the eyepieces.

Scientific observations are made with an imaging camera or spectrograph. Our imager is an SBIG ST-9XE CCD camera with a field-of-view of 7 arcmin x 7 arcmin, and we can guide extremely well with an SBIG Adaptive Optics Module using the Tracking CCD on the ST-9XE while imaging with the Science CCD.  We use an SBIG ST-6 CCD behind an  5-inch telescope (the orange telescope mounted on the side of the main telescope in the picture above) as a finding scope with a 25′ x 19′ field of view.

We also have an SBIG Self-Guiding Spectrograph, which images the light reflected off the slit to automatically keep the star centered on the slit. The spectrograph detector is an SBIG ST-8E CCD, which provides us with spectra at high resolution with a dispersion of 1.1 Angstrom/pixel and a wavelength coverage of 1640 Angstrom or low resolution with a dispersion of 4.3 Angstrom/pixel and a wavelength coverage of 6550 Angstrom.

Most of the images shown below were  taken with the 24″ telescope: