ERAU Prescott Observatory


Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott Observatory Complex

Students Assembling a Radio Telescope Receiver
Students assembling & testing a radio telescope receiver.
The Embry-Riddle Prescott Observatory Complex is equipped with a wide range of instrumentation for imaging and analysis of extraterrestrial electromagnetic emissions. 

This resource is used for Space Physics students and the astronomy community in Prescott.  Students use the observatory for collection and analysis of astronomical data for use in research projects for degree requirements.  Faculty members also use the observatory for research and to provide outreach to the community through public viewings, open houses and other events in conjunction with local educators and astronomy enthusiasts.

Space physicists and astronomers are making great strides in understanding the nature of the universe and everything in it. These scientists observe, record, interpret, and develop theories to explain celestial and physical phenomena. From the vastness of space to the infinitesimal scale of subatomic particles, they study the fundamental properties of the natural world to gain a better understanding of our universe.

Students learn the physics of the solar-terrestrial and distant-space environments and how to study the magnetic and electric phenomena which occur in outer space, in the upper atmosphere of planets, and on the sun. The observatory provides ground-based radio and optical instruments to study these phenomena.

Students look to the skies at the Embry-Riddle Prescott Observatory Complex.

Inside ERAU Prescott Observatory

Student Experiences at Embry-Riddle University

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Observatory Capabilities

The ERAU-Prescott Observatory operates as both a visual observatory and a radio science observatory. The visual observatory is equipped with a variety of telescopes designed foremost for students to conduct astronomical research projects. The observatory telescopes consist of a 16” Meade SX200 on a yoke mount, a 12” Meade on a German Equatorial Mount and an 11” Celestron EdgeHD on a portable mount.

The 16” telescope is equipped with precision tracking suitable for exoplanet detection and is located in the main dome. The other two telescopes are set up for astrophotography and are located in the CDT building with a roll off roof.

The radio observatory consists of several telescopes of a variety of designs covering VLF to SHF (20 KHz to 2 GHz). The principal research telescope is the DART (Distributed Array Radio Telescope ) telescope consisting of three 5-meter square tiles of crossed dipoles. This telescope is designed to be used primarily for pulsar timing. Additionally the observatory operates a quad yagi for neutral hydrogen (HI) mounted on an elevation over azimuth tracking mount. It is capable of remote operation and can scan the entire sky. There is also a 4-Meter HI solid dish telescope on a mount currently limited to meridian work but with adjustable elevation. There are two VHF beams capable of meteor scatter detection and several fixed antennas to complete coverage of the electromagnetic spectrum from 20 KHz to past 2 GHz.

Observatory Sources and Receivers


Observatory Outreach and Events

Open House at the ObservatoryThe Physics Dept. and the observatory has teamed up with the Prescott Astronomy Club to enhance public awareness of astronomical events.  The university hosts the monthly meetings of the Prescott Astronomy Club which are held on the first Wednesday night from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm in Room 107 of the Academic Center 1.  Meetings are not held in summer.   Additionally the observatory hosts telescopes that are available to members of the Club to use for astrophotography and general observations.  The classroom in the main observatory building (Bldg R2) is available to the Club for special classes like astrophotography.

The observatory also hosts university events with an open house and demonstrations by the Society of Physics Students periodically. Public open house events are held each year in April at the observatory complex.  These usually include several telescopes for public viewing and other activities.