Dan Zowada Memorial Observatory

The Dan Zowada Memorial Observatory is a state-of-the-art 20-inch robotically-controlled remote observatory in the high desert of Rodeo, NM at an altitude of 4128 feet. This location has some of the darkest skies in the nation! The observatory is named in honor of Michigan amateur astronomer, Dan Zowada, who tragically died of cancer at the age of 54.

The observatory was kindly donated to Wayne State University by the 419 Foundation of Russ and Stephanie Carroll.

The observatory consists of a 20-inch PlaneWave telescope on a Paramount ME II mount, which are housed in a 12.5-foot Astrohaven robotic clamshell dome. The telescope is equipped with an SBIG STL-1001e camera with LRGB and H-alpha filters. Sky conditions are monitored by an all-sky camera and a weather station. Featured photos courtesy of Sandy Shiloh.

The observatory will have three main uses:

Undergraduate teaching

The observatory will be used in undergraduate astronomy classes, particularly AST 4100/4200 Astronomical Techniques, giving students an observing and data analysis experience not possible from here in Detroit.

Research

A robotic telescope provides flexibility in observing and scheduling that is not possible with standard observatories that require an operator to be present each night. This lends itself to exploring "time-domain astronomy" – the variability of astronomical objects over weeks to months. For instance, Professor Cackett is using the observatory to explore the variability of light coming from gas as it falls into supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies.

Outreach

We plan in the future to develop programs for local schools to use the telescope.

 

Support

Your contributions further our mission of offering a rigorous education supported by a foundation in the liberal arts and sciences. Thank you for your interest in supporting the Dan Zowada Memorial Observatory.

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Images captured from the observatory

IC 434 – the Horsehead nebula is a cloud of dust and gas in the constellation Orion, where stars a being formed.

Photo credit: Russ Carroll (capture), Warren Keller (processing)

M 51 – the Whirlpool Galaxy is a 'grand-design' spiral galaxy that is interacting with its neighbor.

Photo credit: John Buonomo

Tesla Starman – Russ Carroll and Ed Cackett observed Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster traveling through space on February 9, 2018, just 3 days after it was launched on the first Falcon Heavy.