Luther College has two major facilities for astronomical observing: a remote observatory located about eight miles north of Decorah and an observing platform atop Valders, the Luther College science building. Our facilities and observing equipment have recently undergone a major upgrade. We are grateful to the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust for their support of this upgrade (Grant # 00-50).
The remote observatory consists of a small poured concrete structure topped with a 10’ dome from Pro Dome. The dome houses a 16” diameter f/10 Meade LX200 that is used only with a CCD camera. The telescope and dome are designed to be controlled via the Internet. This facility is primarily reserved for undergraduate research, although it can be made available for area middle and high schools. It can also be used with classes and to acquire “fun” images.
The observing deck atop Valders is used for classes, public observing, special observing sessions with groups and undergraduate research. The 19¼' x 18½' facility has four permanently mounted telescopes—two 12” f/10 Meade LX200s, a 10” f/6.3 Meade LX200 and a 10” f/10 Meade LX50. All four telescopes sit atop concrete piers. Each telescope is isolated from the concrete pillar by a Le Sueur Manufacturing Co., Inc. Astro Pier. The LX50 telescope sits on a Meade wedge, while the three LX200 instruments utilize Milburn wedges. The observing area is fully covered by a motor-driven retractable roof provided by Schwab Company of Winona, Minnesota. Be sure to follow the rooftop observatory link to find a video clip of the motorized roof in action.
Our observing facilities are supported by a wide array of instrumentation. We mention only some of it here. We use five CCD cameras— a Meade 216XT, a Meade 416XTE, a Meade 1616XT , an SBIG STL-1001E and an Apogee grade 1 AP6E. We use BVRI filters from Custom Scientific. A student-constructed fiber optic spectrograph is available for research studies. A variety of barlow lenses, focal reducers and eyepieces are available for use. Each telescope is equipped with a Kendrick electric dew removal system. These dew zappers have proven to be an invaluable observatory component.