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: D. E. Jones, published in J. Geophys. Res-Space Phys.
Observations by Pioneer 10 and 11 show that the strongest azimuthal fields are observed near the dawn meridian (Pioneer 10) while the weakest occur near the noon meridian (Pioneer 11), suggesting a strong local time dependence for the corresponding radial current system. Modeling studies of the radial component of the field observed by both spacecraft suggest that the corresponding azimuthal current system must also be a strong function of local time. Both the azimuthal and the radial field component signatures exhibit sharp dips and reversals, requiring thin radial and azimuthal current systems. There is also a suggestion that these two current systems either are interacting or are due, at least in part, to the same current. We suggest that a plausible current model consists of the superposition of a thin, local time independent, azimuthal current system plus the equatorial portion of a taillike current system that extends into the dayside magnetosphere.
BYU Authors: D. E. Jones, published in J. Geophys. Res-Space Phys.
The magnetic field of the Jovian current disc has been modeled by using Euler functions and the Biot-Savart law applied to a series of concentric, but not necessarily coplanar, current rings. We find that a best fit to the Pioneer 10 outbound perturbation magnetic field data (Btotal - Bdipole) is obtained if the current disc is twisted (outer edges increasingly lag behind inner edges with radial distance) and also bent so as to tend toward parallelism with the Jovigraphic equator. The inner and outer radii of the disc appear to be about 7 RJ and 150 RJ, respectively, although some indication of a changing magnetopause location is apparent in the data. Because of the observed current disc penetrations, the bent disc also requires a deformation in the form of a bump or wrinkle whose axis tends also to exhibit spiraling. The radial dependence of the azimuthal current in the disc is not described by a simple power law, the outer region showing a smaller power law dependence. Modeling of the azimuthal field shows it to be due to a thin radial current sheet, but there is some evidence that this may, in fact, be due in large part to penetration of a tail current sheet as suggested by the Voyager observations.
BYU Authors: Douglas E. Jones, published in J. Geophys. Res-Space Phys.
Pioneer 11 vector helium magnetometer observations of Saturn's planetary magnetic field, magnetosphere, magnetopause, and bow shock are presented. Models based on spherical harmonic analyses of measurements inside 8 Rs reveal that the planetary field has a high degree of symmetry about the rotation axis. The vector dipole moment of 0.2 G Rs³ has a tilt angle less than 1° and is offset along the polar axis 0.04±0.02 Rs. Equatorial offsets derived from the models show substantial variability and could be consistent with a very small offset. Beyond 10 Rs, near the noon meridian, the field topology is characteristic of a dipole field being compressed by high-speed solar wind. There is no evidence of plasma outflow, i.e., a planetary wind. Near the dawn meridian the field lines in the outer magnetosphere are stretched-out into a nearly equatorial orientation. Crossings of a thin current sheet are observed, apparently caused by motions driven from outside the magnetosphere. The field above and below the current sheet spirals out of the magnetic meridian plane at large distances to point tailward and parallel to the magnetopause. The location of the magnetopause is consistent with a shape that is similar to that of the earth but perhaps more blunt, as suggested by the attitude of the magnetopause near dawn. Near both the noon and dawn magnetopause the field in the magnetosheath equals or exceeds the field in the magnetosphere. The noon observations suggest a piling-up of magnetosheath field lines adjacent to the magnetopause. Large impulsive field compressions are observed in the magnetosheath near noon. Multiple crossings of the bow shock are observed, and the absence of significant changes in field direction shows that it is quasi-perpendicular. The speeds of motion of the shock toward and away from Saturn are estimated to be 150 and 50 km/s, respectively. A shock thickness of ∼2000 km is inferred.
BYU Authors: D. E. Jones, published in J. Geophys. Res-Space Phys.
The characteristics of the magnetic signature measured by Pioneer 11 during the several hour interval around the crossing of Titan's L shell have been found to be consistent with plausible models of the interaction of a 200 km/s corotating magnetized plasma with a conducting or magnetized object. The observed manner in which the magnetic fluctuations varied throughout the interval, the average magnetosheath/ambient field amplitude ratio, and the occurrence of a field minimum at the time of closest approach to the axis of the extended Titan tail are all consistent with the detection of a magnetic wake roughly 145 RT downstream from Titan. In addition, values of the plasma mass density derived from the interaction geometry are consistent with an upper limit inferred from in situ plasma measurements obtained during the outbound leg of Pioneer's trajectory at Saturn. Although two magnetic events of similar duration occurred within 10 hours and on either side of the Titan related event, they coincided closely with probable passage of the spacecraft through tail and/or ring current systems. In addition, the character of the Titan interval appears to differ from the other two in a number of other important aspects.
BYU Authors: Douglas E. Jones, published in J. Geophys. Res-Space Phys.
Pioneer 10 magnetic field measurements, supplemented by previously published plasma data, have been used to identify shocks at 2.2 AU associated with the large solar flares of early August 1972. The first three flares, which gave rise to three forward shocks at Pioneer 9 and at earth, led to only a single forward shock at Pioneer 10. The plasma driver accompanying the shock has been tentatively identified. A local shock velocity at Pioneer 10 of 717 km/s has been estimated by assuming that the shock was propagating radially across the interplanetary magnetic field. This velocity and the rise time of ≃2 s imply a shock thickness of ∼1400 km, which appears to be large in comparison with the characteristic plasma lengths customarily used to account for the thickness of the earth's bow shock. This Pioneer 10 shock is identified with the second forward shock observed at Pioneer 9, which was then at 0.8 AU and radially aligned with Pioneer 10, since it was apparently the only Pioneer 9 shock that was also driven. The local velocity of the Pioneer 9 shock of 670 km/s, previously inferred by other authors, compares reasonably well with the local velocity at Pioneer 10, but both values are significantly smaller than the average value computed from the time interval required for the shock to propagate from the sun to Pioneer 9 (2220 km/s). The velocity implied by the time required to propagate from Pioneer 9 to Pioneer 10 (770 km/s) is in reasonable agreement with the local velocities. The fourth solar flare also gave rise to a forward shock at Pioneer 10 as well as at Pioneer 9. The local velocity at Pioneer 10, estimated on the basis of quasi-perpendicularity, is 660 km/s, a value which again agrees well with previously derived velocities for the Pioneer 9 shock of 670 km/s. The local velocities for this shock and the velocity between Pioneer 9 and Pioneer 10 (635 km/s) are also significantly less than the average velocity of propagation from the sun to Pioneer 9 (830 km/s). The general finding that the local velocities of both shocks are approximately equal at 0.8 and 2.2 AU but significantly slower than the average speeds nearer the sun is interpreted as evidence of a major deceleration of the shocks as they propagate outward from the sun that is essentially completed when the shocks reach 0.8 AU, there being little, if any, subsequent deceleration. This conclusion is qualitatively inconsistent with previous inferences of a deceleration of the shocks as they propagate from 0.8 to 2.2 AU. A third, reverse shock is also identified in the Pioneer 10 data which was not seen either at Pioneer 9 or at earth. The estimated speed of this shock is 530 km/s, and its estimated thickness is ≲500 km, which compares well with an anticipated proton inertial length of 500 km.
BYU Authors: D. E. Jones, published in J. Geophys. Res-Space Phys.
A model for the night side Jovian magnetic field is derived partly on the basis of theoretical considerations and partly on the basis of the magnetic field data obtained during the outbound leg of the path of Pioneer 10. This model can explain the observed sawtooth modulation of energetic particle fluxes in terms of closed and open field lines that cannot contain the particles. The model is applicable only to the Jovian magnetotail.