The Four-College Consortium and the Future of APT’s
The 0.75-m Four College Consortium Automatic Photometric Telescope, now in its thirteenth year of full time operation, obtains both Johnson-Cousins and Strömgren photometry. The operation of the telescope by a consortium is unique among operational small-automated telescopes. Observing programs for astronomers at four institutions are intermixed on a minute-by-minute basis. While the fundamental purpose of the telescope is basic astronomical research, its very strong secondary purpose is providing research training for undergraduate students at the member institutions of the consortium. Data from the telescope have appeared in over 40 refereed papers and 75 conference proceedings. The work has involved more than 30 undergraduate students. A shared telescope is most effective in studying variations with timescales on the order of 1 – 10 days. No other type of instrument has both the available time and capability for long-term day-to-day monitoring that this period range requires. Here there are a large number of poorly studied targets such as the slowly pulsating B stars, the magnetic Chemically Peculiar stars, and the short period Cepheids. While the single channel photometer is essentially obsolete when compared to modern multi-detector or CCD systems, it can continue providing useful data as long as we maintain it. Over the next few years we hope to replace the primary mirror and substitute a CCD imaging system for the photometer. We are also interested in expanding our network of automatic telescopes. A first step in this process is the installation of a commercial automated telescope at the Etelman Observatory of the University of the Virgin Islands.
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