Resources: Worksheet (PDF), Van Allen Observatory Webpage Equipment PageMACRO Observation Planning Tool, Skymaps.comIntroduction to Van Allen Observatory VideoVAO Quick Observing Guide

Terminology: Apparent MagnitudeLocal Sidereal TimeHour AngleMeridian

Demonstrations: Sidereal TimeEM Spectrum from EarthFilters

The Van Allen Observatory (VAO) is a 17" f/6.8 reflecting telescope, owned and operated by the University of Iowa Department of Physics and Astronomy. It is stationed on the roof of Van Allen Hall in Iowa City, and is used for undergraduate labs, public outreach, and instrumentation development. The resolution of VAO is 0.62 arc seconds per pixel but in practice, the actual resolution is dependent on how clear a night it is. For example, on a good night is about 2 arcseconds and 5 arcseconds on a poor night. The telescope has a magnitude limit of 16th or 17th magnitude stars. 

In this week’s lab, your lab group will plan an imaging observation for the Van Allen Observatory. You will first work to select three candidate targets for your observation that are viewable tonight between 8PM and 10PM (fall) or 7PM and 9PM (spring) and high enough in the sky at those times. Though your object must be visible between 8PM-10PM/7PM-9PM, your lab group will also determine the best time anytime tonight to view each object. For this lab, you will need a way to see the targets available to you and details about how to find the best observation time for your objects. At the end of this lab, if circumstances and weather allow, your TA may observe your target.

van allen observation

Learning Goals: Students will learn about observing at the University of Iowa Van Allen Observatory (VAO) telescope. Students will select objects in the night sky that can be observed with the VAO and be introduced to basic imaging considerations.