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50″ Dedication: World’s Largest Privately Owned Research Telescope October 20, 2014

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On a nightly basis, Holmes quietly monitors the universe.  He does so from his rural Westfield home, located about 10 miles east of Charleston, and he stills uses telescopes – although they’ve graduated greatly in size. In fact, Holmes recently completed the construction and installation of a 50-inch (size of the mirror) telescope, making him the proud owner of the largest privately owned telescope in the world.  It is the fourth in a collection that also includes a 24-inch, a 30-inch and a 32-inch telescope – each of which has its own outbuilding to keep it safe from the elements.


Scale View of the 50″ telescope (Photo by Mike Lockwood)

“The buildings are about 10-feet wide, with roofs that slide straight back,” Dr. Steve Daniels, EIU Physics Chair said. “Bob did his own design.”“There’s a microwave link between the observatory on Bob’s property and EIU,” he continued.  “It’s Web-based, made possible as a result of a very strong collaborative effort.”Holmes’ connection with Eastern goes even deeper.“As an adjunct professor, he hosts our astronomy classes; they go out to his property a couple of times a year, at least,” Daniels said.  “And he works closely with Jim Conwell, the physics professor who built Eastern’s own observatory.“Students are an integral part of Bob’s work,” he added.  “And not just with students at EIU.  Through his work, Bob reaches about 300 schools in 40 countries, working with students to analyze the multitude of data that he collects.  He helps researchers – both young and old – by making his equipment available to Skynet, an internet-based telescope-sharing network.


Bob Holmes and EIU President William Perry

“He generates an enormous database of photographs that he collects almost every night, and then uploads it to the Web for others to use.  He holds workshops to train teachers to analyze astronomical data, including how to identify asteroids in a series of photographs, and encourages them to pass this knowledge along to their own students,” Daniels said.

Of course, Holmes does continue to spend many of his nights in solitude, gazing up into the skies.  And he continues to break records for discovering and tracking Near Earth Objects.  In fact, despite the many major observatories, Holmes is responsible for nearly half of all NEO measurements made in 2011.

“In other words, his observatory is responsible for more NEO data that anyplace else in the world,” Daniels said.  “From his observatory in Westfield, Bob Holmes stands guard over our world.

Excerpts were taken from the full article that can be seen at EIU.


Two Year Project Done August 16, 2013

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This week we have completed a two year long project to connect the telescopes at the Astronomical Research Institute (ARI) to the high speed internet access at EIU. This was done with a direct, line of sight,  microwave link over the 12 miles separating ARI and the EIU campus. This increases the bandwidth to upload images every night by a factor of at least 15.

The new wide-field camera (32 megabytes per image) took 10-15 minutes per image to up load, under the old connection.  At times it wasn’t even possible as the uploader gave up and stopped running.  It takes about 30-40 seconds now per image with zero failure rate.  The 2 meg images on the other cameras are less than 2-3 seconds.

Just two telescopes took 12-16 hrs for upload with just the 2 meg images with the old internet.  ARI never even tried the new camera on the old internet except to test the time it took.  Now all three scopes can be uploaded in about 90 minutes.  That’s about 2,500 images or 6 gigs of data.  We are typically done by 6am!

Some day the 50 inch will be working and adding another 1.5 gigs of data per night with the large format Apogee camera. Until then enjoy a look at one of the first test pictures uploaded from the wide field camera on the 30″ telescope. the galaxy M33


M33: Taken by Robert Holmes (Click to enlarge)


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30" RC Astroscope

Yerkes Skynet Night Registration

You are invited…


Skynet Night

Yerkes Observatory event Friday Feb. 24th – 7:00 PM


In 2012, Yerkes will be engaged in a series of fund-raising events to support the restoration and upgrades of Yerkes telescopes and support funding for Yerkes Education Outreach programs. On Friday evening February 24th, Yerkes will host the first of these events.

Supporting SKYNET and Yerkes telescopes

Funds from this first event will be used specifically to upgrade the mirror coating and operation of the Yerkes 41″ reflector, and to support the redesign of the optics of the reclaimed Hands-On Universe 30” telescope by Robert Holmes of the Astronomical Research Institute. Both of these telescopes are operable through SKYNET (http://skynet.unc.edu/), a world-wide network of telescopes, used by scientists, and teachers and students associated with our Yerkes Education Programs and our Collaborators, including Hands-On Universe (HOU) and International Asteroid Search Campaign (IASC).

Limited participation, register now!

Participation will be limited to 100 guests; cost $50 per person. There will be several scientists, engineers, educators and students attending to mingle with the guests to discuss SKYNET, our participation in SKYNET and the plans we have to restore Yerkes telescopes. If weather permits, guests will also be invited to do some stargazing through the Yerkes great refractor. Wear warm clothes (domes are not heated) and shoes appropriate for climbing narrow stairs; flashlights are suggested as well.

It is our hope to find benefactors among the guests who will be interested in a contribution beyond the initial $50.

Name___________________________________________ Address___________________________________________ City______________________________ State _____________ Zip__________ YES, _____________ Person(s) will attend @ $50 per person

Check enclosed for $_________________

Checks payable to: University of Chicago, Yerkes Observatory
Send checks to Yerkes Observatory, 373 W. Geneva Street, Williams Bay, WI 53191 Additional information, phone: 262-245-5555, fax: 262-245-9805
You may also register online at http://astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes/yo_feb24/index.html 

SKY & TELESCOPE Article on Local Observatory November 4, 2011

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December 2011 Issue

The December Issue of Sky & Telescope has hit the newsstand this week. The feature article is on Bob Holmes, an adjunct professor in the Physics Department here at EIU.  Bob is director of the Astronomical Research Institute (ARI), a private research observatory about 15 miles away from Charleston. He is one of NASA’s principle people who does orbital measurements of Near Earth Object (NEOs). These are potentially hazardous asteroids that intersect near the Earth’s orbit. All done with telescopes that he BUILT! I’ll tell you next week about the his new 50″ telescope, with picture of the mount installation, that will be fully installed next year. It  make ARI the largest privately owned observatory in the world.

New NEO Discovered From ARI, Charleston, IL. March 6, 2011

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2011 EB7 Credit JPL and J Conwell

NEO 2011 EB7 discovered on March 2, by  Astronomical Research Institute (ARI), in Charleston Illinois, is an AMOR Near Earth Object (NEO). AMOR’s are Earth-approaching NEAs with orbits exterior to Earth’s, but interior to Mars’ orbit, named after asteroid Amor 1221.Robert  Holmes, director of ARI, is an adjunct professor in the physics department at Eastern Illinois university.

2011 EB7  is currently 0.5 AU away from Earth. It also has a predicted orbital period of 2.42 years. The closest point of 2011 EB7 orbit is 0.16AU to Earth’s orbit. For more detailed information go to the JPL site:


Telescope News from ARI and EIU November 7, 2010

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Astronomical Research Institute(ARI), Eastern Illinois University and Hands-on Universe in cooperation with the University of Chicago Yerkes Observatory and Argonne National Laboratory just commissioning the 30 inch (0.76m) AutoScope that will be used for education and research. EIU and ARI refurbished this RC optics telescope after it had been stuck by lightning in New Mexico. New photos show it on site at the opening nite celebration.

30" RC Astroscope

We also got to see the progress on the ARI’s 50″ telescope which will hopefully see first light in the summer of 22011. You can see the progress on the massive fork mount that will hold the optical tube.

Dr. Steve Daniels, ARI's Bob Holmes and Prof. Dave Linton looking at the massive folk mount for the 50" telescope

After a new coat of epoxy primer and weighing in at 1990 lbs the fork mount stands ready for the rest of the telescope to be completed.

Fork for the 50" telescope


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First light images on the 30″ Scope taken August 28.These were both about 20 second exposures. To give you an idea of brightness, the center white dwarf star in the ring nebula is about 15th magnitude.

M57 the Ring Nebula

M57 the Ring Nebula

Great Globular Cluster in Hercule, M13

Now the work begins to calibrate the telescope, but we have a starting point now.  The RC optics are a bit picky to get  aligned after reassembly. We now also can do a full polar alignment of the mount. These

30″ TELESCOPE IS IN!: Summer Update 1 August 31, 2010

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John Pratte and Bob Holme installing the 30" mirror cell

August 17th was a big day for the EIU Physics department and the Astronomical Research Institute (ARI). We assembled the refurbished 30″ diameter Ritchey–Chrétien telescope. Bob Holmes, director of ARI, and an adjunct faculty member of the EIU Physics department, the Physics students at EIU, John Pratt, and your’s truly have worked for about nine months for this day. If you look at some of the past articles in this blog and at ARI’s site you’ll see some of the history behind this project.

30" Primary Mirror in it cell

First the triangular base was installed; then the rotating cradle that is the Right Ascension Axis, and holds the primary mirror cell, was mounted on motors in the base. Next we used a engine hoist to lift in the steel mirror cell into the cradle so it can pivot on the Declination axis . Finally we install the 30″ mirror in its cell. Now most of the heavy lifting is done, but the cage, or tower, that hold the secondary mirror must still be installed.

Jim Conwell and Bob Holmes

Now comes the part where we put a camera on and see if all the optics and mount are well aligned.

But more on that next time…along with first light photos!

Astronomy Club tonight …7:30PM March 24, 2010

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Come early time tonight come to room 2153 Physical Science Building, 7:30 PM. We will then take a trip out to the Astronomical Research Institutes new home for a tour. Also nominations of officers fro next year.

Snug in its new home, just add optics and start tracking asteroids

50″ Mirror out of the Kiln! March 11, 2010

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50" Mirror blank, with yardstick resting on the top (Photo: ARI)

Progress on the 1.3-m mirror blank

The 1.3m telescope mirror blank has been completed by Peter Wangsness and is now out of the furnace and will be shipped to JP Astrocraft in Charleston for generating the f/4.0 curve. After generating the it will be shipped to Lockwood Optics in Champaign, for grinding, polishing and figuring.

Mike Lockwood and his mirror grinding machine

Mike Lockwood and his mirror grinding machine ( Photo: Mike Lockwood)

More good news; the EIU Physics students are done with refurbishing the mount for the 30″ roboscope. Next week we hope to put some new motors on and test it out…more photos to come!