Department of Physics and Astronomy
Stony Brook University
7:30 pm, Friday, April 02, 2021
on-line via Zoom


The Condor Telescope Array

Prof. Kenneth Lanzetta

Over the past several years, a new type of astronomical telescope known as a “telephoto array” or an “array telescope” constructed by combining off-the-shelf equipment designed for photography and amateur astronomy has garnered significant scientific and popular attention. Here we introduce the “Condor Array Telescope,” which is just now being deployed to a superb astronomical site in the southwest corner of New Mexico. (Condor was to have been deployed to the Rio Hurtado Valley of Chile last year, but Covid intervened, and the project was fortunate to have found a more accessible temporary home.) Condor is a high-performance array telescope that is optimized for detecting both very-low-brightness features and point sources and is capable of efficiently imaging regions of the sky at an unprecedentedly rapid cadence of 60 seconds while remaining sky-noise limited. The array consists of six off-the-shelf apochromatic refracting telescopes, each equipped with focal-reducing field corrector, motorized focuser, motorized filter wheel, and large-format CMOS camera, all attached to a common mount. The telescope operates completely autonomously. The scientific objectives of the project include (1) studying very-low-brightness galaxies and the low-brightness outer regions of the Milky Way, LMC and SMC, and nearby and distant galaxies, (2) studying stars at a rapid cadence, including searching for transiting extra-solar planets, and (3) mapping the entire sky in several narrow bandpasses. The project also allocates 20% of the available observation time to a far-reaching “broader impacts” program, including specifically allocating half of this time fo faculty and students at historically black colleges and universities. The project is a concept feasibility study for a much larger array telescope with much greater light-collecting capability and is funded by the Advanced Technologies and Instrumentation program of the National Science Foundation. Weather and schedule permitting, the lecture will be delivered live from the Condor site in Animas, New Mexico.

Kenneth M. Lanzetta is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy of Stony Brook University. He obtained a BA in physics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983 and a PhD in physics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1988. From there he spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Astronomy of the University of Cambridge in England and then four years as a postdoctoral researcher and Hubble Fellow at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences of the University of California, San Diego before taking a position as assistant professor at Stony Brook University in 1994. He was promoted to associate professor n 1997 and to professor in 2001. His research interests involve extragalactic astronomy and cosmology, including issues of galaxy formation and evolution, quasar absorption lines, evolution of the intergalactic medium, detection and identification of faint, high-redshift galaxies, and development and application of optimal image processing techniques utilizing large-scale scientific computing facilities.