A 0.81 meter (m) telescope in northern Italy is well on its way to being wide eyed and shiny thanks to a 2013 Planetary Society Shoemaker NEO Grant, which will enable it to make better near Earth object observations to help protect our planet from asteroid impact.
Albino Carbognani of the Astronomical Observatory of the Autonomous Region of the Aosta Valley (OAVdA), located in the Italian Alps, was awarded a 2013 Shoemaker NEO Grant for improvements to their 0.81 m telescope. They have made great progress both in re-aluminizing the mirrors which will allow them to see dimmer objects, dimmer than 21st magnitude for those playing the astronomical magnitude game, and obtaining a focal reducer to increase the field of view of the telescope, which will allow a larger patch of sky to be observed at any one time. The telescope will be used for astrometric follow-up including for the recently launched ESA Gaia mission, and also for physical studies of asteroids.
The Astronomical Observatory of the Autonomous Region of the Aosta Valley, started in 2003, is located in the northwestern Italian Alps, in the border area near France and Switzerland 1678 m above sea level in the Saint-Barthélemy Valley. In 2013, 11 members comprised the OAVdA staff including a scientific team of 6 physicists and astronomers.
Albino sent me the following: “…the new mirrors (both primary and secondary), aluminized by ZAOT S.r.l. (Milan, Italy) were remounted over the Main Telescope (RC 0.81-m, f/7.9) with the help of the technician chief of the Astronomical Observatory of Pino Torinese (INAF-OATo). Now we will proceed to the realignment of the optics!” Even visually, in the images below you can see a huge improvement.
Note that it is rare to have a telescope as large as 0.81 meters dedicate so much of its time to asteroid astrometric (positioning) follow-up and asteroid characterization, so it is exciting to have this telescope refurbished and soon back on line.
Albino also more recently reported that the focal reducer lens had been delivered and that they have started constructing a supporting structure for it. The focal reducer provides a wider instantaneous field of view for the telescope onto their detectors, allowing larger parts of sky to be searched for asteroids.
Help The Planetary Society support the hunt for near Earth asteroids: