THE ASTRONOMY DEPARTMENT
The Department of Astronomy consists of approximately two dozen faculty members, plus about the same number of doctoral level research scientists and associates. In addition, there are supporting technical, engineering and mechanical staff to assist in the teaching and research functions of the department. The top three levels of Robert Lee Moore (RLM) Hall house the on-campus activities of the astronomy department, and include office space and a convenient reference library. The teaching labs and departmental audio-visual aids offices are housed on the 13th floor of the RLM building. The student office is located in RLM 15.204.
Most areas of modern astronomy, from observational studies of the solar system, stars, nebulae and galaxies, to theoretical astrophysics applied to a wide range of topics, are represented in the interests of the scientists in the department. While the most important concentration of the department is in the area of observational astrophysics, there is also good theoretical support, and the large size of the department provides a unique opportunity for astronomy students to become informed on a wide variety of areas.
The department operates the University of Texas McDonald Observatory in West Texas, a world-renowned center of postgraduate astronomical research featuring many large telescope systems, including the innovative new Hobby-Eberly telescope with the light-gathering power of a mirror 9.2 meters in diameter -- the second largest in the world as of December 1996. (See the graduate brochure of the department for more information on research facilities and research interests of the faculty.) It is more and more common these days to see undergraduate students accompany researchers to the observatory.
Local facilities in Austin include a 9-inch refracting telescope located on top of T.S. Painter Hall, a 16-inch reflecting telescope on top of the RLM building and a solar telescope located on the 13th level of the RLM building. Computing facilities are provided by the UT Computation Center and numerous in-house computers and workstations, some of which are available to undergraduates when used for astronomy courses and research projects.