Facilities

Andrea Dobson teaching in Clise PlanetariumAndrea Dobson teaches a class in Clise Planetarium

Clise Planetarium

Clise planetarium, on the first floor of the Hall of Science, serves to introduce students to the constellations, coordinate systems, and seasonal changes in the night sky. In addition, the Astronomy Department provides planetarium presentations for local groups (e.g., school classes); these presentation are usually given by advanced astronomy students who are interested in improving their speaking and teaching skills. Equipment includes a Spitz 512 instrument and computers and projectors for multimedia presentations.

Telescopes

  • The observing lab on the roof of the Hall of Science has over a dozen small telescopes available during (clear) evening lab periods for astronomy student use. These include 8-10-inch Newtonians, 8-inch Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrains, a 4-inch Takahashi refractor, an 8-inch Cave Astrola, a 9-inch refractor, a 14-inch dobsonian, and a particularly fine 4-inch Alvan Clark refractor. The Celstron telescopes are equipped to do white-light solar observing and a narrow-band H-alpha filter is available on the Takahashi.
  • A dome on the roof houses a 14-inch Celestron used for student research projects. It is mounted on a Paramount Go-To mount and primarily utilizes a SBIG STL-1100M CCD camera with UBVRI, LRGB, and H-alpha filters.
  • The Bracher observatory 8 miles north of town houses a 16-inch Newtonian (and also serves as a dark-sky site for introducing students to fainter constellations).
  • The department is also part of the AASTA consortium which is installing a 30-inch telescope at a dark site between Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities. That telescope will be available for student research projects when it becomes available in the near future.

Computers

The Astronomy Department computer lab has eight computers with five Windows-based machines and three Macs along with a flatbed scanner and the departmental laser printer. Students doing research have access to several additional computers running linux including a six-core Xeon workstation. A wide range of scientific and astronomical software (such as IRAF and IDL) are available for student use. Color and poster printing are available using equipment shared with other science departments.

Weather station

On the roof of the Hall of Science is a weather station is connected to a console, located on the first floor of the Science Building in the display case next to the seismograph and streamflow station. Readings from the weather station are displayed in real time at weather.whitman.edu.