Professor Richard Ditteon and students do research.
The Oakley Observatory is primarily a teaching observatory, but we are capable of carrying out small telescope research. Small telescope research is important because the universe is a big place. Professional astronomers with large telescopes simply cannot keep track of everything that is going on.
Rose-Hulman students are currently active in research in the field of asteroid astrometry and asteroid photometry. Asteroids are identified by their motion relative to background stars. The Oakley Observatory is also equipped for conducting research in variable star photometry, searching for supernovae or searching for comets.
Asteroid astrometry is the precise measurement of the location of an asteroid at a precise moment in time. Position measurements are made to a fraction of an arcsecond (an arcsecond is 1/3600 of a degree) and the time is measured to the nearest second. The results of our observations are reported to the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Our observations are combined with those from observatories all over the world in order to precisely determine the orbit of the asteroids. Once the orbits are accurately known, then the location of the asteroid may be determined many years into the future. Asteroid Observations published in the Minor Planet Circulars are listed here.
In the process of measuring asteroid positions, Rose-Hulman students have discovered a total of 33 asteroids. Asteroid discoverers are permitted to name their discoveries.