Columbia, Maryland and Washington DC,
13:25 PM

Remote Observation Center at Universities Space Research Association Now Open

Universities Space Research Association (USRA) opened the USRA Keck Remote Observation Site as part of its Remote Observation Center at its Headquarters location in Columbia, Maryland. Astronomers in the Baltimore-Washington area can now study the distant galaxies through a facility located close to their homes. To probe the distance universe they no longer have to travel to Hawaii to use the powerful telescopes there.

This facility at USRA in Columbia, Maryland links to the W. M. Keck Observatory on the summit of the Maunakea volcano in Hawaii. USRA offers remote access to the Keck Observatory and its telescopes that host a suite of eight state-of-the-art observing instruments to collect and analyze astronomical data. A ninth instrument will be available within a few months.

The first observation was conducted on February 2, 2017 in support of NASA’s Juno Mission by a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. James O’Donoughue. This was an important observation according to O’Donoughue since “This is the first time a spacecraft has ever (and currently, will ever) fly over the poles of Jupiter multiple times, measuring in situ parameters we cannot measure from Earth. To exploit this once in a lifetime opportunity, we are observing contemporaneously with Juno as it passes over the poles of Jupiter, where the solar system’s most powerful aurora arise: ~30 Trillion Watts (TW) per hemisphere (Earth’s are ~0.1 TW). These orbits provide an unprecedented opportunity to examine the mechanisms involved in auroral production at gas giant planets, as well as understanding how this interaction drives energy through the upper atmosphere of the planet.”

Information on the Remote Observation Center at USRA Headquarters is available at Astronomers seeking to get observation time at the USRA Keck Remote Observation Site should contact the Keck Observatory.

Feb 2, 2016