Useful Observing Tools
- SkyMaps's Evening Sky
Map and Calendar Nice PDF sky chart for the current month, showing
stars, constellation lines, planets, and Messier objects. Makes it easy
to figure out what interesting things are visible on a given evening.
Nice calendar comes with the map, detailing celestial events of interest
for the current month.
Small's Telrad Messier Maps PDF maps showing the location of each
Messier object, centered in a Telrad, shown with respect to the nearby
stars. Makes it easy to find and center a Messier object in a telescope
(if the telescope is equipped with a telrad; the C14 at Prices Fork has
a telrad). Messier objects are the brightest 100, or so, galaxies,
nebulae, and star clusters in the sky.
- The Astronomy Connection's
Observing Targets Page Lots of useful information for the
more advanced telescopic observer.
General Info, Key Usage Rules
The Physics Department maintains and operates
its astronomical observatories for use in its classes on Astronomy.
The admininstration and operation of the Astronomy Club of Virginia
Tech is independent of the Physics Department. A Physics Department
faculty member acts as an advisor for the Club, and as the contact
between the Physics Department and the Club. The current faculty
advisor is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The primary purpose of the Astronomy Club is to provide interested students
with access to the Physics Department's Prices Fork Observatory.
All students are eligible; members are not required to be physics majors.
To obtain access to the Prices Fork Observatory, Astronomy Club members
must do the following:
Pay the annual dues to the treasurer of the club.
Attend a checkout session for training in operating the telescope and
dome. These checkout sessions are usually conducted as part of a club
meeting. You will learn the procedures for the proper use of the Prices Fork Observatory, and the rules for use of the Prices Fork Observatory
Using the Prices Fork Observatory
The Prices Fork Observatory is used for university classes, for public
sky shows, and by the members of the Astronomy Club. To get access to the
key, club members must pay the club dues, go through a brief checkout training
session at the observatory.
As part of the checkout procedure for new users, you will be shown
how to set up and use the various telescope at the Prices Fork Observatory.
In particular notice the following:
Note that the classes and public shows sometimes occur at the observatory.
The events take precedence over club activities. Public open houses generally
take place on Friday evenings during the fall and spring semesters. There
is a "Virginia Tech Observatory Recorded Message" which can be heard by
dialing 231-5719. On the evening of a class, or public event, it may contain
a message indicating whether or not the event is taking place.
A list labeled "OPENING PROCEDURE: C14" is posted on the inside of the
observatory dome. PLEASE follow its step-by-step instructions to set up
and use the C14. Since it's all written down on this list, you won't have
to remember each step!
A list labeled "CLOSING PROCEDURE" is also posted (upstairs and downstairs).
Again, you won't need to remember these things since it's all written down
--- just PLEASE follow the list, step by step.
The use of advanced equipment and accessories is outlined in the blue binder
labeled "Prices Fork Observatory Manual." When in any doubt as to usage,
check with a club officer or the Observatory Coordinator prior to use.
Nearly all the equipment (including the telescope) is fragile, and expensive.
Minor equipment problems should be reported for repair to the Observatory
Coordinator on the next weekday. If the problem can't wait (e.g., you can't
get the dome to close) call the Coordinator immediately.
DO NOT attempt to repair, clean, or otherwise physically alter any of the
NOTHING WHATSOEVER (telescopes, equipment, books, etc.) is to be removed
from the observatory by anyone without prior approval of the Observatory
coordinator. Penalty: revocation of key privileges.
Rules for the Use of the Prices Fork Observatory
While there is only one key, there are many hours in a day. So, to
enable efficient use of the observatory, club members must be able to
contact the person who has the key, and possibly join the key holder at
the observatory. Therefore, the following simple rules apply.
The rules can be summed up as follows: sign out the key on your way
to the observatory and bring it back to the sign out desk immediately after
you finish using the observatory.
The key is kept at the Virginia Tech Police dispatcher's desk, behind
the Lane Stadium, on Southgate Drive. The dispatcher's desk is manned 24 hours per day.
If you have the key you must be at the observatory. There is only one exception to this rule: you are
on your way to the observatory from the sign out desk, or coming back from
the observatory to the sign out desk.
If, when you have the key, you cannot be found at the observatory (with
the exception mentioned in rule 1 above), you may lose your key
privileges. Complaints should be addressed to the Observatory Coordinator.
The key holder may not deny access to the observatory to any other club
member who wishes to join him there. However, the key holder has first
choice over the use of telescope and other equipment.
[There is one exception to this rule: If, for reasons of safety
or the protection of the observatory, in the key holder's judgment a club
member and/or guest(s) should not be allowed access to the observatory,
the key holder should immediately contact the Observatory Coordinator.
If the Coordinator cannot be reached, the key holder can deny access to
the other person(s). If you are really in a jam, call the Police (dial
The person who signed out the key is officially in control of the
key. Furthermore, the person who signed out the key is officially responsible
for whatever happens at/to the observatory while the key is signed out.
Thus, whatever he/she decides is final. However, club members are
urged to be nice to each other!
The key holder must return the key to the sign out desk, in person.
Violation of this rule will result in revocation of key privileges.
July 2000: Links2Go ranked this page as 17th among the 50 most cited
webpages related to the topic "US Clubs."
Virginia Tech Physics Department