The success of any academic program is a strong function of the resources available to it in the form of faculty, staff, students, equipment, and financial support. The Astronomy program at KU is no exception. With 4 full-time faculty in Astronomy, 2 in Cosmology, 1 in Astrobiology, and 2 in Plasma Astrophysics, the astrophysically-oriented faculty has increased by a factor of three over the last 30 years, coupled to a steady increase in the quality and quantity of students expressing an interest in astrophysics as a career. Despite the successes of the program, until recently, two primary areas of weakness remained: our ability to provide financial support for junior-senior majors during the academic year and the summer, and unrestricted access to research-quality instrumentation for astronomical research. In the following paragraphs, we describe a variety of areas where the support of alumni and friends of the program has been instrumental in the past and where future support would prove invaluable to aid us in our goal of providing our students with the best education possible while permitting them to achieve their full potential. If you have any interest in contributing to the future of the program in any way and at any level, please don't hesitate to contact us via e-mail at: 

A Research Telescope

Ultimately, any viable observational astronomy program can only compete in today's environment with guaranteed access to a research-quality telescope of 1-meter class or larger. For a program of the size found at KU, the pricetag on such equipment requires sharing the costs of construction and maintenance within the context of a larger consortium. Thanks to the support of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, KUCR, and a grant from the National Science Foundation, KU Astronomy and KU Aerospace Engineering formed a collaborative partnership with San Diego State University, Dartmouth College, and CMA, Inc. of Tucson. The ULTRA PROJECT was designed to lead to the development of a new-technology, ultra-lightweight 1m class telescope for research in astronomy. With completion of the project in 2008, KU and SDSU initiated plans to convert the ULTRA telescope to a conventional 1.25M cassegrain which will be operated remotely and robotically from Mt. Laguna Observatory outside San Diego, with the telescope time shared jointly by KU and SDSU. More info on this project can be found at this site. As of 2013, we are at the halfway point in reaching our goal of raising the funds needed to operate and maintain KU's share of the telescope. Direct donations to the MLO telescope fund can be made via this link.

Student Financial Aid

For a number of years, our primary goal was the establishment of endowed funds capable of providing financial support, i.e. scholarships, for students majoring in Astronomy at KU. Some progress was made in the area of student financial aid through the establishment of the Harriett Johnson Fund and the expansion of endowment funds to support any major within the Department, as exemplified by the Undergraduate Scholars Fund, the Badgely Fund, and the Talty Fund. Our ultimate goal was to supply some financial aid to every qualified junior-senior major in the program. The new University policy toward undergraduate support now places all decisions on scholarship support for incoming freshman under the direction of the Admissions office. Because the decisions are based almost exclusively on high school resumes, i.e. GPA and SAT/ACT scores, this benefits our program in general because of the above-average ranking of students interested in majoring in Physics or Astronomy. However, the lack of departmental control over fund distribution and the guarantee that incoming students who meet the scholarship criteria will be supported, irrespective of whether the funds come from the Department or the university, lowers the priority of raising Departmental funds for student support.

Clyde Tombaugh Observatory

With the removal of the Clyde Tombaugh Observatory from the roof of Lindley Hall and the dismantling of the Pitt telescope, on-campus observing at KU was temporarily transferred to the Observing Station at Memorial Stadium. Though this site was adequate for undergraduate labs and occasional open houses for the public, the sky conditions and use of tripod mounts make it an untenable location for even simple research programs and deep sky observing. To overcome these problems, the Astronomy Progam has begun a collaborative project with the Astronomy Program at San Diego State University to install a remote-controlled 1.25 M telescope on Mt. Laguna, 45 miles east of San Diego. With the elimination of the intro astronomy lab, ASTR 196, the temporary observing site on campus was shut down permanently in June 2013.

Pitt 27 inch Mirror

Though the Pitt Telescope is no more, the 27-in mirror survives. It has been made available on permanent loan to the NorthEast Kansas Amateur Astronomer's League (NEKAAL). This exceptional club in Topeka has had a long history of promoting astronomy to the public within the region while developing observing facilities capable of carrying out reasonably sophisticated amateur research programs, exemplified by their success in recent years in identifying near-Earth asteroids, as well as the first comet found via observations made in Kansas, Comet Hug-Bell. NEKAAL has developed a compact design for the new telescope built around the Pitt mirror.