McDonald Observatory receives new telescope

Areeba Khwaja

UT astronomers are now one step closer to discovering the secrets of the skies.

Over the next two years, the McDonald Observatory will be receiving a new one-meter telescope, expanding the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) network.

The LCO is a private, non-profit, global group that has created a network of robotic telescopes that is currently spread over the world across Australia, China, Hawaii, Texas, South Africa, Israel, Chile and the Canary Islands. The five sites in the northern hemisphere and three in the southern hemisphere combine their data to create a more complete picture of the sky.

“The LCO network brings access to a ring of telescopes around the world so that we can follow an object continually for more hours than just a single night,” said Anita Cochran, assistant director for research support of the McDonald Observatory. “This is important in science so we can find out what is happening while it is daytime anywhere we are.”

The University of Texas hosts some of the LCO telescopes, giving UT astronomers and researchers extended access to the entire LCO network.

Cochran said astronomers at the McDonald Observatory are looking forward to studying exoplanets: planets orbiting other stars than our own, supernovae: exploding stars at the end of their life, and white dwarfs: stars that are small and fading out of existence as they cool off and the formation of new stars.

In addition to this new one-meter telescope, a new 0.4-meter telescope will also come to the McDonald Observatory which will be used for both research and educational purposes. Researchers are currently using the LCO telescopes for projects such as searching for extrasolar planets, according to the observatory’s website.

McDonald Observatory director Taft Armandroff said in a press release that he was excited about the new telescope because it aligned well with the research interests of UT-Austin astronomers.

“The McDonald Observatory continues to grow in its capabilities and in its science,” Armandroff said. “We are pleased and grateful to have another LCO one-meter telescope studying our very dark skies.”