Department of Physics, Astronomy and Materials Science

Baker Observatory

The William G. and Retha Stone Baker Observatory was established in 1977. The Observatory is used for basic astronomy and astronomical techniques laboratories, and by faculty and students engaged in astronomical research.

NASA Public Observing Night

The public may visit the Baker Observatory during public viewing events that are conducted by the PAMS department twice each year, in April or May, and in September or October. It's free and families are welcome. Carpooling is encouraged due to limited parking area.

Please check the University's master calendar or follow the department's facebook page for up-to-date information on the next event as well as information on potential postponements due to inclement weather.

Directions to the Baker Observatory

The Baker Observatory is located in Webster County approximately 10 miles northwest of Marshfield, off Missouri Highway 38, at 1766 Old Hillcrest Road. A traffic attendant will be stationed at the intersection with Rose Bush Drive to direct parking.

GPS coordinates: 37.002727   -93.0412969 

NOTE: To help us keep the site dark for better viewing, please bring a red flashlight to see your way around the Observatory entrance and grounds. Red tape or cellophane over a regular flashlight is okay. Wear sturdy, casual shoes or boots and dress for the weather.

This event can only occur with clear skies and the determination of status usually can't be made before 5:00. A phone hotline will be set up on Friday after 5:00 p.m. at 417-836-5131 with a recorded message, as well as web updates. The "rain date" would be the next evening at the same time.

Observatory telephone: 417-329-5570

Equipment

Telescopes

There are three permanently mounted telescopes:

  • 0.4-meter (16") diameter Cassegrain reflector
  • 0.36-meter (14") diameter Schmidt-Cassegrain hybrid
  • 0.28-meter (11") diameter Schmidt-Cassegrain hybrid

The 0.4-meter reflector was one of the first telescopes used at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, and later at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. It was obtained by Missouri State University from AURA in 1983.

CCD detectors

There are a number of CCD detectors used on telescopes:

  • A Princeton Instruments 1340x1300 pixel nitrogen-cooled camera on the 0.4-m reflector
  • An Apogee Instruments, Inc. 512x512 pixel thermoelectrically-cooled camera on the 0.36-m Schmidt-Cassegrain hybrid
  • SBIG ST-6, 7, and 9 CCD detectors are used on student telescopes

Astronomy Image Analysis Laboratory

Astronomy faculty and students use the astronomical image analysis laboratory to work on images obtained at Baker Observatory and other national and international observatories. By examining these images of the universe more closely, students and faculty are able to make exciting new observations and discoveries.

CCD images

Charged-Coupled Device detectors (CCDs) are used by most observatories to record images of astronomical objects and spectra of these objects. These detectors are similar to the ones found in modern digital cameras and video cameras, except that astronomical CCDs are manufactured under stringent procedures to produce scientific-grade detectors.

Image Reduction (Calibration)

  • Bias or zero-duration exposure subtraction.
  • Dark (thermionic emission) subtraction.
  • Flat field correction

Image Analysis

  • Measurement of star brightness
  • Measurement of spectral line shapes

The way in which the brightness and spectral lines of a star change with time can be used to determine important physical properties.

Astronomy images taken at Baker Observatory

Planet

Mars
Mars August, 2003

Nebulae

Galaxy
M51 The Whirlpool Galaxy

The Dumbbell
M27 The Dumbell Nebula

The Sombrero
M104 The Sombrero Galaxy

Stars

Globular Cluster in Hercules
M13 Globular Cluster in Hercules

People at the observatory

Future plans

Our department is currently fundraising to build a new education building on the site of the Baker Observatory. If you are interested in helping us reach this goal, please contact Dr. David Cornelison at 417-836-4467.