BYU Astronomy Research Group Joins the Astrophysical Research Consortium (ARC)

As of January 2021 BYU will be a member of the ARC Consortium (Link to Consortium) with access to the ARC 3.5-m telescope and the 0.5-m ARCSAT telescope.  The primary use of the ARC 3.5-m telescope time is for graduate student projects.  This provides a wide array of instrumentation that is currently being used to study objects in the solar system all the way to studies of the large scale structure of the Universe.

Other BYU Astronomy Facilities

In addition to our telescope time from the ARC consortium, we operate a number of our own astronomical facilities

West Mountain Observatory (West Mountain)

This is our mountain observatory at about 6600 ft above sea level.  This consists of three telescopes: 0.9-m, 0.5-m, and a 0.32-m. It is a 40 minute drive that ends in a 5 miles drive up a dirt road. The mountain itself can be seen from campus.

Orson Pratt Observatory

The Orson Pratt Observatory is named for an early apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It is our campus telescope facility and contains a wide variety of telescopes for student research and public outreach. We operate a 24" PlaneWave telescope in the main campus dome, plus a 16", two 12", one 8", and a 6" telescope on our observation deck.  The telescopes are all fully robotic. Beyond this we have a large sections of public telescopes.

Royden G. Derrick Planetarium (Planetarium)

This is a 119 seat, 39" dome planetarium with acoustically treated walls to allow it's use as a lecture room. We will shortly upgrade to an E&S Digistar7 operating system with 4K projectors.  The planetarium is used for teaching classes, public outreach, and astronomy education research projects.

Selected Publications

BYU Authors: B. J. Taylor, M. D. Joner, and E. J. Jeffery, published in Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser.
In this paper, new Cousins VRI data are presented for NGC 752 and Praesepe, and new and extant data are combined into an augmented database for M67. For those three clusters, catalogs containing Cousins VRI photometry, reddening-corrected values of (V -K)(J), and temperatures are produced. The same is done for Coma by using both previously published and newly derived Cousins photometry. An extant set of catalogs for the Hyades is updated to include V magnitudes and values of (R -I)(C) that were published after the original catalogs appeared. Finally, M67 V magnitudes published previously by Sandquist are corrected for an effect that depends on location on the face of the cluster. The corrected data and values of (V -I)(C) given by Sandquist are then set out in a supplementary catalog. Data files containing all of these catalogs are deposited in the CDS archives. To assess the quality of the data in the catalogs, the consistency of extant Cousins VRI databases is tested by performing analyses with the following features: (1) quantities as small as a few millimags are regarded as meaningful; (2) statistical analysis is applied; (3) no use is made of data other than VRI measurements and comparable results; (4) no inferences are drawn from color-magnitude comparisons; (5) pertinent data that have not been included previously are analyzed; and (6) results based on direct comparisons of stellar groups at the telescope are featured. In this way, it is found that our updated M67 color data and those of Sandquist are on the E region zero point. In contrast, values of (V -I)(C) from Montgomery and collaborators are found to be too red by 27 +/- 3 mmag, with an even larger offset being likely for unpublished data from Richer and his collaborators. Zero-point tests of our Cousins VRI colors for Coma, Praesepe, and NGC 752 are also satisfactory. Scale factor tests of the M67 colors are performed, and a likely scale factor error in the Montgomery et al. colors is found. However, it appears at present that the scale factors of our M67 colors and those of Sandquist are satisfactory. For the most part, zero-point tests of the assembled V magnitudes are also satisfactory, although it is found that further work on the V magnitudes for Praesepe and M67 would be useful. To put these results in perspective, it is pointed out that photometric tests that are satisfactory at the few-millimag level have been published for some two decades and so are not appearing for the first time in this paper.
BYU Authors: M. D. Joner and B. J. Taylor, published in Publ. Astron. Soc. Pac.
New Stromgren-beta Pleiades data on a zero point defined by the Hyades and Coma are presented. The new data and counterparts from four extant sources are compared to measurements published by Crawford & Perry in 1976. The only statistically significant problem found in this way is a 4 mmag offset obtained b - y from a data set published by McNamara in 1976. Results of similar comparisons published previously for Praesepe are updated by including three additional sets of published data. In this case, comparisons are made to measurements published by Crawford & Barnes in 1969. Two of the data sets (including one published by Joner & Taylor in 1995) yield accordant, statistically significant formal corrections to the b - y m(1) measurements of Crawford & Barnes. In addition, results from a third data set are consistent with those derived from the data of Joner & Taylor. However, this pattern is either partly or entirely absent from the offsets yielded by the other three data sets. Because the measurements of Joner & Taylor are still the only ones known to have been derived from direct comparisons among the Hyades, Coma, and Praesepe, it is concluded that the balance of evidence presently favors the offsets obtained from those data. In addition, it is noted that the data of Joner & Taylor do not imply that the data of Crawford & Barnes require corrections that depend on color. With these interim conclusions drawn, it is then suggested that further Praesepe measurements should be brought to bear on the problem.
BYU Authors: B. J. Taylor and M. D. Joner, published in Publ. Astron. Soc. Pac.
In this paper, transformations between Cousins R - I and other indices are considered. New transformations to Cousins V - R and Johnson V - K are derived, a published transformation involving T-1-T-2 on the Washington system is rederived, and the basis for a transformation involving b-y is considered. In addition, a statistically rigorous procedure for deriving such transformations is presented and discussed in detail. Highlights of the discussion include ( 1) the need for statistical analysis when least-squares relations are determined and interpreted, ( 2) the permitted forms and best forms for such relations, ( 3) the essential role played by accidental errors, ( 4) the decision process for selecting terms to appear in the relations, ( 5) the use of plots of residuals, ( 6) detection of influential data, ( 7) a protocol for assessing systematic effects from absorption features and other sources, ( 8) the reasons for avoiding extrapolation of the relations, ( 9) a protocol for ensuring uniformity in data used to determine the relations, and ( 10) the derivation and testing of the accidental errors of those data. To put the last of these subjects in perspective, it is shown that rms errors for VRI photometry have been as small as 6 mmag for more than three decades and that standard errors for quantities derived from such photometry can be as small as 1 mmag or less.
BYU Authors: Michael D. Joner, Benjamin J. Taylor, and C. David Laney, published in Astron. J.
New BV(RI)(C) observations of 77 stars in the Hyades are reported and discussed. The new observations are used to test published magnitudes and color indices for that cluster. For values of (V-R)(C) and (R-I)(C) published previously by Taylor & Joner, the tests reveal no detectable scale-factor problems. In addition, the tests show that possible zero-point corrections to the published data can be no larger than a few millimagnitudes. These test results indicate that future studies requiring precision photometry for Hyades stars would be well served by selecting data samples from sources as close as possible to the native Cousins system. Tests of B-V photometry published by Johnson & Knuckles reveal a zero-point ambiguity of approximately 8 mmag in the new data that will require further measurements to resolve.
BYU Authors: J. Ward Moody, M. Jeanette Lawler, Juliana Boerio-Goates, R. Steven Turley, David V. Dearden, Bart J. Kowallis, and Michael D. Joner, published in (BYU Academic Publishing, Provo, UT), Jennifer Berry.
BYU Authors: B. J. Taylor and M. D. Joner, published in Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser.
Using Hyades photometry published by Mendoza and other authors, Pinsonneault et al. have recently concluded that Cousins V - I photometry published by Taylor & Joner is not on the Cousins system. Extensive tests of the Taylor- Joner photometry and other pertinent results are therefore performed in this paper. It is found that in part, the Pinsonneault et al. conclusion rests on ( 1) a systematic error in Mendoza's ( R - I)(J) photometry and ( 2) a small error in an approximate Johnson- to- Cousins transformation published by Bessell. For the Taylor- Joner values of ( V - R)(C), it is found that there are possible ( though not definite) differences of several mmag with other results. However, the Taylor- Joner values of ( R - I)(C) data are supported at the 1 mmag level. Using the ( R - I)(C) data and other published results, an ( R - I)(C) catalog is assembled for 146 Hyades stars with spectral types earlier than about K5. For single stars with multiple contributing data, the rms errors of the catalog entries are less than 4.4 mmag. Temperatures on the Di Benedetto angular- diameter scale are also given in the catalog and are used to help update published analyses of high- dispersion values of [ Fe/ H] for the Hyades. The best current mean Hyades value of [ Fe/ H] is found to be + 0.103 +/- 0.008 dex and is essentially unchanged from its previous value. In addition to these numerical results, recommendations are made about improving attitudes and practices that are pertinent to issues like those raised by Pinsonneault et al.