Observing Starshine over Sedgwick Reserve

Byrne Observatory at Sedgwick Reserve
The Byrne Observatory, part of a planned global telescope network, will be accessible to UC students and researchers. Image credit: Matthew C. Miller

A brand-new telescope at the NRS’s Sedgwick Reserve is giving astronomers front row seats to some of the most spectacular events in the night sky. Learn more about it courtesy of the cover story in UC Santa Barbara Today.

Looking Up: First Observatory at a UC Natural Reserve

The sign on the door of the new Laurie Nelle Byrne Observatory at the Sedgwick Reserve reads: “LCOGT.net  We Always Keep You in the Dark.”

The Byrne Observatory, the first at a UC Natural Reserve, is part of the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT). When complete, the network will link 44 telescopes around the world, creating an uninterrupted, 24-hour-a-day view of the night sky. Data gathered by the robotic, solar-powered telescopes are accessible via the Internet.

Wayne Rosing, chief engineer and founder of the LCOGT, says Sedgwick was chosen as the site for the 32-inch telescope because of its clear, dark sky. The observatory will create a “gateway to science” for K-12 classes and extraordinary research opportunities for University of California students and astrophysicists.

“We anticipate that the network will be used primarily by students, and once it is fully commissioned robotically, time will be available for scheduling by members of the UC system,” notes Rosing, a pioneer in computer engineering and senior fellow in both astrophysics and engineering at UC Santa Barbara. He also is a senior fellow at UC Davis.

The LCOGT is particularly interested in astronomical events that appear suddenly and without warning, such as supernovae and gamma-ray bursts and objects that need to be observed for long periods of darkness, including planets outside of the solar system and binary star systems.

The Byrne Observatory is named in memory of Laurie Nelle Byrne, who served as a docent at the reserve, and in honor of the Byrne family. Over the years, gifts from the family’s foundation have greatly enhanced the reserve, including support for the Tipton Meeting House, the future headquarters for Sedgwick and the site for remote telescope presentations.

“With a remote telescope operation you can follow a transient object that appears bright and then disappears,” explains UCSB astrophysicist Lars Bildsten, a permanent member of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. “As this network is constructed, it will allow users around the world to capture these events.”

— Eileen Conrad

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *