Studying observational astrophysics using robotic telescopes
T. Hoffmann, M. Gehlen, T. Plaggenborg, J. Kunz-Drohlshagen, S. Harfst, T. Ott, E. Drohlshagen, A. Rietze, N. Wassermann and B. Poppe
The University of Oldenburg is currently expanding its astronomical education program by means of recently secured state funding (see submission of Poppe et al. to this conference). The main focus is on the practical application of astrophysics by using robotic telescopes to perform observations that illustrate the theoretical facts. Students are given the opportunity to gain initial experience with robotic telescopes at the beginning of their studies. They submit observation plans to an online astronomy platform (e.g. Slooh.com), process the images obtained under guidance and present them to an audience. Building on this, students are offered observation evenings to see how the university's robotic telescopes work. In addition, some students may gain further insight by imaging Minor Planets and Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) with professional equipment (16“-Richey-Chrétien telescope (MPC code: G01) and 6“-Wide-field Astrograph). The goal of these observations is to collect astrometric and photometric data for ephemerides calculations. They will be submitted, if they meet the standards, to the MinorPlanetCenter (MPC) of the IAU. This will contribute to the improvement of the orbit and size calculations of known objects and even the verification of new objects. In addition to small planet observations, students will learn astrophotography techniques such as creating a color image from individual RGB images along with calibration images. They are also encouraged to use narrow band filters for "false color" images best known from the Hubble telescope which helps to image deep-sky-objects in light polluted areas. All in all, this enables students to get an insight into the work of an observational astrophysicist, already at an early stage of their studies. It gives them practical experience, which they can also deepen in the context of final theses.