Physics & Astronomy, School of Science

The addition of new instruments to the Breyo Observatory will expand imaging and research opportunities for the Siena community.

Jacob Pelton ’22 has been working this summer to test and install new instrumentation such as imaging cameras and a spectrograph on the largest telescope in the Capital Region. 

Rose Finn, Ph.D., professor of physics and astronomy, said Pelton’s first-time experience with such a project was a success: initial viewings on July 5 showed that the instruments worked as designed.

“Jake came in with no prior experience with telescopes and their instrumentation, and he worked independently to study manuals and websites,” said Finn. “He did an amazing job learning about the instruments and the software needed to control them, and he was not deterred by the inevitable obstacles and setbacks that arose. This is great experience for someone who is considering a career in engineering.”

This will be the first time that Siena can capture spectra files of what is viewed through the telescope. Like sending sunlight through a prism and seeing a rainbow emerge, the new spectrograph reveals the spectra of light emitted by stars and other objects. The detailed information encoded in the light will allow Siena students and faculty to investigate the chemical and physical properties of celestial objects. Also, a new cloud sensor will allow for remote closure of the telescope in the event of cloud cover or inclement weather. 

“The new camera will improve our imaging capabilities, and the spectrograph opens up new areas of research for us,” said Finn.

Pelton is majoring in applied physics and during his senior year he will be exploring graduate study opportunities in mechanical engineering.

This equipment was part of the College’s original telescope acquisition, and is being installed now after the faculty and students had adequate time to assess the quality of atmospheric conditions at the observatory.

Siena is planning to resume public viewings at the Breyo this fall. 

“It was really great to be a part of this project, and I hope to be able to do more observing this summer. It was a really good way to get hands-on experience with this kind of instrumentation, and to learn how to overcome frustration when things don’t go your way the first time you work with new technology.” 

Jacob Pelton ’22