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: Douglas E. Jones, published in Planet Space Sci.
The distant (X = 200–238 Re) tail lobe average properties under quiet solar wind conditions have been determined using simultaneous ISEE-3 magnetic field and IMP-8 magnetic field and plasma observations. Under external solar wind pressuresof Pext = B2/8π+Nk(Te+Ti) ⩽5×10−10 dynes cm−2, an average tail lobe field strength of 7.1±1.2 nT and average plasma beta (8πnKT/B2) of 0.3 are determined. It is concluded that under quiet solar wind conditions, the distant tail lobes are typically dominated by the magnetic field pressure.
BYU Authors: Douglas E. Jones, published in Planet Space Sci.
Short (<1 min) and long time (> 5 min) variations of the plasmasheet magnetic field have been examined during all intervals when ISEE-3 was at distances x < −200 Re. It is determined that short period magnetic turbulence increases by a factor of ∼3 with increasing geomagnetic activity, as indicated by AE. In contrast, long period field variations with North-then-South signatures at plasmasheet entry occur ∼2.5 times more frequently than South-then-North signatures. This result, combined with other previous ISEE-3 results, is in agreement with the interpretation that the North-South plasmasheet features are plasmoids propagating tailward. However, a statistical examination of the geomagnetic activity relationship indicates that there does not appear to be any substorm dependence on these North-South events.
BYU Authors: D. E. Jones, published in Planet Space Sci.
This review presents a summary of past work on the ISEE-3 distant tail magnetic field observations. An attempt has been made to bring the many results together as a coherent whole, in the hope that the reader can envision the direction of future research necessary to achieve an understanding of the dynamics of the magnetotail from 60 to 240 Re and perhaps beyond.
BYU Authors: Douglas E. Jones, published in J. Geophys. Res-Space Phys.
The Jovian magnetospheric field measured by Pioneer 10 and 11 can be well modeled by a combination of current systems composing an azimuthally symmetric current disc, a dusk-dawn current sheet in both the dayside and the nightside magnetosphere, and an image dipole to represent the effects of currents on the magnetopause. The inclusion of a dusk-dawn current sheet in the dayside magnetosphere allows observations obtained both inbound and outbound to be simultaneously fit by an azimuthally symmetric current disc (i.e., without the need for local time dependent current densities). Similar disc current intensities are found to describe both Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 encounters. During the Pioneer 10 inbound passage the magnetopause was rapidly pushed inside the spacecraft position by a solar wind compression event. The changes that occurred in the magnetospheric field at this time can be described by relatively simple changes in our model parameters. When the field lines of our model are extended beyond the region of fitting, both the Pioneer 10 and the Pioneer 11 encounters give similar profiles with magnetopause distances that are consistent with the actual encounters. The most striking feature of the models is that they suggest that the Jovian cusp is at much lower latitudes than is the case with the earth’s magnetosphere.
BYU Authors: Douglas E. Jones, published in J. Geophys. Res-Space Phys.
The properties of waves with frequencies below 3 Hz observed upstream of low Mach number (2–3) interplanetary shocks are discussed. High-frequency emissions (0.2–2 Hz in the spacecraft frame) are commonly detected immediately upstream (<2 RE) of the shocks, whereas lower frequency emissions (∼0.05 Hz) are found to extend upstream to much greater distances (typically 10 RE). Both emissions are right-hand circularly or elliptically polarized and generally propagate within a 15° cone angle relative to the ambient magnetic field. The lack of a significant compressional component for either of these waves is in agreement with propagation parallel to the ambient magnetic field. Upstream waves are detected principally in association with quasi-parallel shocks (θBn < 65°). Assuming the waves are propagating outward from the shock, an expression is derived for the wave frequency in the solar wind rest frame. The waves are found to have rest frame frequencies of 0.05–1 Hz and 10−3 to 10−2 Hz. Arguments are presented which exclude the possibility that the high-frequency waves are standing whistler mode waves. The most likely source of these emissions is generation at the shock by 100 eV to 1 keV electrons and propagation of the whistler mode waves into the upstream region. The lower frequency 10−3 to 10−2 Hz waves propagate at speeds near the Alfvén velocity, and hence cannot outrun the super-Alfvénic shocks. These waves must be locally generated by plasma instabilities in the upstream region. Generation by Landau electrons or ions can be ruled out due to the observation of parallel propagation of the waves. The most likely source is 1–10 keV cyclotron-resonant ions propagating away from the shock. The upstream waves bear many similarities to those observed in the earth's foreshock. The frequencies, polarization, and typical upstream extent are nearly identical. It is also deduced that the lower frequency waves of both regions are generated by keV ions streaming away from the shock. There are some differences, however. Waves upstream of interplanetary shocks are found to propagate parallel to the magnetic field (<15°), are noncompressive (ΔB/B ≤ 0.25) and are generally lower in amplitude. Additionally, there are extraordinary interplanetary events, for which the scale of the upstream wave region is greatly extended (∼1300 RE or 0.04 AU) and the field takes on a more turbulent character. The latter events should be of interest in modeling Fermi acceleration of ions at collisionless shocks.