Observatories

The NMSU Astronomy Department operates the Apache Point Observatory (APO) for the Astrophysical Research Corporation (ARC), a collaborative partnership that includes NMSU, University of Washington, University of Virginia, the Institute of Advanced Study, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Colorado at Boulder. APO is located in the Sacramento Mountains in southern New Mexico, about a two hour drive from NMSU.

APO is currently home to four astronomical telescopes.

  • The ARC 3.5m telescope is a general purpose telescope used by ARC partners for a wide range of astronomical research; NMSU owns a 15% share (about 50 nights/year) of the telescope time. The 3.5m is capable of delivering high quality images to a variety of instruments including an optical imager, an optical spectrograph, an optical echelle spectrograph, a near IR imager, and an optical Fabry-Perot; other instrument initiatives are underway.
  • The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) 2.5m telescope is also located at APO. The SDSS is an ambitious project to provide digital imaging of 1/4 of the entire sky in five colors, with followup spectroscopy of a million galaxies plus additional quasar and stellar targets. The SDSS partnership includes NMSU and most of the ARC partners, as well as several other prominent international institutions. It is one of the most scientifically productive facilities in the world.
  • NMSU has full ownership of a 1m telescope at APO. This telescope has been used for several imaging research programs. It can be run in a robotic mode, which makes it ideal for long term and/or monitoring programs. Much of the technical work required on this telescope is performed by department members, including graduate students, providing an opportunity to obtain technical experience. All of the optics for the telescope were recently repolished, with the goal of improving the image quality.
  • Arcsat is a 0.5m telescope.

 

In addition, NMSU’s facilities include:

  • The campus Tombaugh observatory, where we hold public outreach events.
  • NMSU also owns a 24-inch reflector on Tortugas Mountain (known locally as “A” mountain), located just a few miles east of campus. This telescope has been used extensively in the past several decades for planetary observations, including monitoring of Jupiter’s storms and HST-support observations of the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact on Jupiter. Although it is rarely used at present, it provides opportunities for observatory training and public outreach efforts.
  • NMSU Astronomy is also home to a NASA Planetary Node, which archives planetary atmospheres data from a wide range of different observatories (including many space missions, such as Pathfinder, Galileo, and Viking). The node funds and provides a range of opportunities for archival research, for both staff and students at NMSU.

Members of the department also make use of other observational facilities, including national facilities and private facilities through collaborative research efforts. Certain special opportunities are available due to our close proximity to nearby observatories, such as the Very Large Array in Socorro NM (several of our students have received predoctoral fellowships and completed theses there), the National Solar Observatory with branches in Sunspot NM and Tucson AZ, and the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson AZ. NMSU is also a member of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which oversees the management of several major observational facilities.