|$1.8 million grant expands UNC-led international telescope network|
|Thursday, April 08, 2010|
A $1.8 million, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation will add six telescopes to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Skynet Robotic Telescope Network, expanding its reach from three to four continents.
Skynet is a software program developed by the University that controls the telescopes remotely. The network is used by professional astronomers and students.
To existing telescopes in Chile, the United States and Italy, the University will add:
The grant’s principal investigator is Daniel Reichart, Ph.D., associate professor of physics and astronomy in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences and director of Skynet, PROMPT and the Morehead Observatory.
In 2005, Reichart and UNC undergraduate student Joshua Haislip (now a software engineer in Reichart’s lab) discovered the then-oldest known explosion in the universe, the afterglow of a gamma ray burst 12.8 billion years old, using both PROMPT and the SOAR (Southern Observatory for Astrophysical Research) telescope in Chile.
Since its launch shortly after that discovery, thousands of North Carolina high school students have used Skynet via a Web interface to observe the night sky in locations thousands of miles from Chapel Hill. About 13,000 elementary and middle school students and members of the public have used an introductory version of Skynet at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Also, about 350 Carolina undergraduate students per year are using Skynet in introductory astronomy classes, accessing it from their laptops.
For more information, go to http://college.unc.edu/features/march2010/article.2010-03-25.4478250329