New SARA Agreement Gives Agnes Scott Students Access to Canary Island Telescope

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


A once-dormant telescope has been given a new lease on scientific life, thanks to an international partnership and the ability to operate equipment remotely via Internet linkup across continents.

The Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope, or JKT, located on the Canary Island of La Palma, Spain, was rededicated this month in a mountaintop ceremony attended by representatives of the telescope’s former and current operators. 

An agreement between the U.S.-based Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy consortium, or SARA, which includes Agnes Scott College and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), has rendered the 1-meter JKT active for the first time since 2003. Changing funding priorities earlier led to the telescope’s inactivation. 

“For the IAC, this is an important step forward in the collaboration we maintain with universities in the USA, a collaboration with which we are most satisfied because of the many possibilities it opens to stimulate the joint use of our facilities and further scientific exploration,” said Rafael Rebolo, IAC director.

SARA12Located 7,861 feet above sea level on the island’s summit, the telescope on La Palma brings special advantages, according to SARA representatives. It adds a new instrument at an excellent site, and its longitude offset from the sites in the Americas allows uninterrupted views of changing phenomena without having to go outside consortium facilities. With time change differences, it also provides access to a nighttime sky for observations between noon and midnight in the eastern U.S.

For Agnes Scott students, the reactivated JKT means greater access and flexibility for observations.

“The new telescope in the Canary Islands will allow students to make remote observations during daytime here in Atlanta and expand our ability to integrate telescope observing with daytime classes,” said Dr. Christopher De Pree, director of the Bradley Observatory and Charles A. Dana Professor of Astronomy and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Agnes Scott.

Photo credit: D. López/IAC

Agnes Scott College educates women to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times. Students are drawn to Agnes Scott by its excellent academic reputation, exceptional faculty and metropolitan Atlanta location—offering myriad social, cultural and experiential learning opportunities. This highly selective liberal arts college is known for its diverse and dynamic intellectual community. Through SUMMIT, it provides every student, regardless of major, with an individualized course of study and co-curricular experiences that develop leadership abilities and understanding of complex global dynamics.