Telescope Construction at the Pisgah Astronomical Research and Science
- Funding agency: NASA
- Collaborating institution: UNCA (PI: Chuck Bennett)
- Project period: 9/15/05-9/15/06
- Award amount: $1,000,000
The Pisgah Astronomical Research and Science Education Center (PARSEC) is being organized as a University of North Carolina system-wide center. Administered through UNC-Asheville, PARSEC has entered into a partnership with the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), a not-for-profit research institute located 35 miles southeast of Asheville, NC. PARI maintains a variety of astronomical instruments, including two 26-meter radio telescopes (formerly used by NASA and NSA for satellite tracking), a 12-meter radio telescope, a 4.6-meter radio telescope, and a variety of small optical instruments. The PARSEC-PARI partnership is dedicated to training scientists in a multidisciplinary, instrumentation-rich environment. This approach specifically addresses a pressing national need for scientists intimately familiar with the design and limitations of their equipment. In astronomy, in particular, it is essential to groom the next generation of investigators to be able to envision and design the next generation of cutting edge instruments. This approach will contribute to the development of the national workforce in space related science and engineering, a NASA priority.
This project emphasizes the equipment acquisition and infrastructure development in order to fully implement a multidisciplinary environment in which students and faculty from Astronomy, Physics, Math, Computer Science, and Engineering work together in pursuit of astronomical goals. Specific tasks involve upgrading the PARI 26-meter radio telescopes, including mechanical redesign of the feed/receiver mounting systems, design and construction of receivers at 318 and 430 MHz, pointing and control system enhancement, recabling, and painting. We will acquire state-of-the-art lab equipment for receiver development. A distance learning facility will strengthen ties between the UNC system and activities at PARI. A 0.4-meter optical telescope will provide students with both direct and on-line access to a professional instrument. Finally, several fundamental and necessary infrastructure improvements will support the basic operations necessary to implement these goals.