Villanova University, along with Western Kentucky University and South Carolina State University, is a member of the RCT Consortium which operates a 1.3-meter (50-inch) Roboticallly-Controlled Telescope (RCT) located at Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) in southern Arizona. The KPNO 1.3-meter telescope served as an important test-bed for the development of IR instrumentation, but was closed in 1995 due to budgetary constraints. The RCT Consortium successfully proposed for the operation of the telescope and, following a NASA-funded refurbishment, it was transformed into the RCT and returned to active duty in 2004, with full operations beginning in 2009.
The RCT itself is a state-of-the-art f/4 Casegrain optical telescope on a German-equatorial mount. It is equipped with a cryogenically-cooled 2048x2048 pixel SITe CCD camera with a wide range of broad-and narrow-band filters available. The camera has a 9.6x9.6 arcmin field of view. The telescope can be operated in a completely automated mode, allowing remote observing. As such, it is an extremely important instrument for teaching and research at Villanova, where travel to off-site facilities, especially during the school year, is not desirable.
Given the high sensitivity of the instrument and the quality of the observing site, we are able to carry out exciting new observations of many objects that are too faint to observe from our on-site telescopes. Such objects include protostars, novae, supernovae, black holes candidates, quasars, active galaxies, white dwarfs, and brown dwarfs. Faculty and students utilize thie RCT to enhance the undergraduate research experience and to augment our space-based observations on a variety of existing and newly conceived teaching and research projects.