Astronomical Research with Small Telescopes in an Urban Environment

Simon Jeffery (Armagh Observatory)
Increasing human activity associated with night-time illumination has an obvious impact on the visibility of the night sky. For the most demanding astronomical goals, the only solution is to observe from remote and protected locations, or from space. There remain many science goals that can be pursued with small to medium telescopes; the use of modern CCD cameras makes these many times more efficient than their counterparts of 25 years ago. The challenge is to make best use of available starlight and weather windows, using a variety of automation techniques. (i) The Armagh Observatory Polar Bear Survey Telescope (PBST) was constructed in 2009 to (a) study variability amongst some 10,000 stars at the North Celestial Pole and (b) to provide a baseline measurement of the night-sky brightness from which to measure future changes in light pollution over Armagh. (ii) The Armagh Observatory Robotic Telescope will be commissioned in 2009/2010 to allow follow-up observations of variable star discoveries, exoplanet timings, solar-system events. This talk will describe the rationale and designs for these telescopes, and show some early data from the PBST.

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