The U.S. Air Force’s Project Falcon telescope finds a new home in Whitewater, CO. It’s one out of twelve in a series, and a few of them can be found all across the world.
Francis Chun, a professor of physics at the U.S. Air Force Academy, traveled to Whitewater to help oversee the installation of the project and has worked with other telescope installations around the state.
“Within the state of Colorado, we have, of course, one here in Grand Junction – Whitewater. We have one in Durango. On the eastern half of the state we have one in Sterling, another one in La Junta, and just around the Colorado Springs area we have Yoder”, says Chun.
The telescopes require high elevations with low atmospheric activity to be utilized more often, making the Grand Valley an ideal location.
“One of the things that makes this place unique, for what we do, is the elevation. We’re at 6,150 feet, we’re away from light pollution being more than 30 miles away from Grand Junction”, says Terry Hancock, the Director of the Grand Mesa Observatory.
The telescope is controlled remotely, meaning a Colorado Mesa University professor with access can change the telescope’s trajectory with the push of a button.
“They can learn about the solar system. They can learn about the man-made space environment. They can learn about deep-space astronomy objects, as well. They can learn about other galaxies”, says Chun.
The telescope network can also help with national security-related purposes as they’re designed to track satellites. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, also known as DARPA, and the U.S. Air Force have expressed interest in utilizing the tracking data for this reason.
“The telescopes are identical in software and hardware, so every system located elsewhere as part of the Falcon Telescope network are exactly the same”, says Chun.
Not only is the Project Falcon telescope going to benefit students, academics, astronomers, and many others; it’s going to help connect us on Earth closer to our solar system.