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The Etelman Observatory and the Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope: A Pivotal and Resilient Educational Center and Research Instrument

Presentation #139.02 in the session “Ground-based Optical Instrumentation and Performance”.

Published onJan 11, 2021
The Etelman Observatory and the Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope: A Pivotal and Resilient Educational Center and Research Instrument

The Etelman Observatory of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) is the southernmost and easternmost optical observatory in the United States, located on the island of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. It is home to the Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope (VIRT), an 0.5m robotic telescope with wide coverage of both the Northern and Southern hemisphere. Astronomers with UVI’s Physics program, and industry scientists from OrangeWave Innovative Science, LLC operate and maintain the observatory and VIRT. The observatory is a key research and student training component in UVI’s Physics and Engineering programs, and supports a diverse variety of other research, educational, and outreach initiatives. Despite recent challenges due to severe hurricanes and the current pandemic, the observatory has dramatically increased its scientific production, including GCN notices following-up gamma-ray bursts detected by the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory. Moreover, we continue to grow the observatory’s participation in time domain and multi-messenger astrophysics by fostering new international collaborations—while continuing to provide rigorous research and hands-on engineering activities for UVI physics and engineering students. We detail these Etelman Observatory successes by highlighting 2018-Present activities, and by summarizing ongoing staff and student research and engineering efforts. Ongoing and future areas of observatory growth and collaboration will also be discussed.


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