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Utilizing the Appalachian State University Dark Sky Observatory for Cometary and Solar System Science

Presentation #211.11 in the session We Know the Way: Future Missions, Instruments, Facilities (iPosters).

Published onOct 20, 2022
Utilizing the Appalachian State University Dark Sky Observatory for Cometary and Solar System Science

Comets exhibit temporal variability on a variety of timescales, ranging from outbursts occurring over hours to days to slower trends over months as the comet moves through its orbit. This means that frequent and long time cadence observations of comets are vital to understanding their activity and composition, yet often observations cannot be executed at the cadence necessary to characterize the ephemeral nature of comets, especially on larger facilities where time is limited. Therefore smaller facilities with flexible scheduling are key tools in the quest to understand comets. The Appalachian State University Dark Sky Observatory (DSO) in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina is such a facility. The site is equipped with five telescopes, with apertures of 32, 18, 17, 14, and 3 inches. All telescopes have imaging capabilities at optical wavelengths and are equipped with Johnson-Cousins filters. Future plans include procurement of a Hale-Bopp comet narrowband filter set. In addition to an imaging camera, the 32-inch telescope has several optical spectrographs. The main spectrograph is the Gray-Miller spectrograph, providing spectral resolving power from R=1300-2300, depending on the grating used, and covering wavelengths from 3800-5600 Angstroms (encompassing bright bands of CN, C2, C3, and CH typically observed in comets). The Kelly Anne Kluttz Ebert (KAKE) spectrograph is currently being developed and will provide a higher resolving power of 15,000, albeit over a narrower (but tunable) spectral range (50-100 Angstroms). The 14-inch and 17-inch telescopes are operated on the Skynet robotic network, which will allow for rapid follow up of transient events such as outbursts. The 32-inch telescope can also be operated in robotic mode. We will discuss the capabilities of the instrumentation available at DSO and how it can be applied to cometary science and other applications in solar system research. We will also present preliminary data collected with DSO.

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