Eyes in the Sky with Barker College
Major Kelly Freitag lowers himself into the entrance of the dome housing the CDK 14 space telescope, situated a couple of hundred metres outside of Barker College, south of the airfield perimeter.
As the Director of Space, RCAF Barker College Canadian Armed Forces, Maj Freitag was not only responsible for purchasing the telescope from PlaneWave Instruments (based in Adrian, Missouri), but also for setting the telescope up.
He emerges from inside a small circular space about seven feet high.
The telescope is situated on an L-350 mount, which, is on a concrete pile approximately fourteen feet in the ground. This pile isolates the telescope from all vibration that might emerge as people tread on the rough wood floor.
A laptop computer sits on a metal table against one part of the concave interior. A WiFi system inside the dome connects the computer to the telescope. The computer’s software system allows the telescope to be focused on almost any object the user would like to track.
“From the telescope, we have a camera, a ZWO 6200 Pro,” Maj Freitag reports. “It’s one of the more advanced telescope imaging systems.”
Attached to the telescope is a filter wheelwhich houses seven different filters. “The filters help remove some of the light pollution,” Maj Freitag, who studied physics and mathematics at a university in Ontario, explains.
“Then we have the red, green and blue filters. If you combine those three colours together you can get a colour image.”
The optical tube itself is the CDK (Corrected Dall-Kirkham), he adds.
The optical design “is an innovative solution for unsurpassed astroimaging quality at an affordable price,” says the PlaneWave website.
“The CDK telescope design provides excellent imaging with large format CCD cameras while remaining superb for visual use.”
The main light comes in and bounces out of the primary mirror to the secondary mirror and back down to a tiny hole or aperture, where it’s focused, says Maj Freitag, noting that it’s about a two and half metre focal length.
“We can see everything on the computer screen.”
The project total was $32,000 (USD), “which was pretty inexpensive when you’re trying to do it yourself,” he says.
“But, we saved on the labour.”
Maj Freitag and his team, Major Glenn Dean and Sergeant Manlio De Monte, use the space telescope in their Space Professional Operations Course (SPOC).
Beside instructor professional development and knowledge building, the telescope will also help students in the SPOC, Maj Freitag says.
“The telescope will help students understand space situational awareness better, understand the use of electromagnetic spectrum, spacecraft tracking fundamentals and the limits of the use of radar tracking and how analysis of light collection can complement traditional spacecraft tracking fundamentals,” he adds, noting that there are plans for similar telescopes at other CAF bases over the next few years to aid in space situational awareness.