The 0.9-meter (36-inch) telescope was transferred to the WIYN (Wisconsin-Indiana-Yale-NOAO) observatory in February 2001, after which it was refurbished. In addition to the basic WIYN partners, operations at the 0.9-meter telescope are supported by San
The 0.9-meter WIYN telescope: inside the dome. Photo courtesy of National Optical Astronomy Observatory/ Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy/National Science Foundation.
Francisco State University, the University of Florida and Wesleyan University. It is the latest incarnation of the first research telescope on Kitt Peak, which began operation in 1962. It is used most often with the Mosaic camera, which gives it a one-degree field of view. Using this camera it is possible to study very extended objects, like clusters of galaxies, as well as regions of our Galaxy where stars are actively forming. It can also take pictures of nearby galaxies which otherwise would be too large to fit in a single image.
The second optical counterpart to the mysterious gamma-ray bursts was discovered with this telescope. GRBs were discovered in the late 1960s, but only in 1997 was the first optical signal clearly associated with a burst found. This optical 'counterpart' was associated with a very distant and faint galaxy. The physical nature of the bursts' source is not yet known, but might be related to the explosion of a massive star (supernova), the merger of two neutron stars, or the absorption of a neutron star by a black hole. The section on the Super-LOTIS telescope describes GRBs in more detail.
Over the history of Kitt Peak, small telescopes such as this have contributed a lot to our basic understanding of stars, star formation, and the structure of our Galaxy. Small telescopes can be run quite economically, without the need for specially trained operators (unlike the larger telescopes). They are particularly suited for projects called surveys, where astronomers want to study many stars in order to determine the properties of groups and classes of stars. Surveys might take weeks or months of observing time to finish, so typically they are done on small telescopes so as to leave the larger ones free for more detailed follow-up studies that answer questions raised by the surveys, or for projects involving very faint objects.
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