Grants made by the Robert Martin Ayers Sciences Fund


As I describe over at the grant criteria web-page I am interested in supporting three general areas: education, smaller telescopes, and novel systems. The existing grants reflect all of these.

Education and Outreach

Flagstaff Arizona fifth-grade classes visit Lowell Observatory

This began in 2010 as a one-year grant to enable all the 5th grade classes in the Flagstaff school system to visit Lowell for a day of adventure and education. We called it an IYA (International Year of Astronomy was in 2009) experiment.

Lowell personel and the Flagstaff school district (FUSD) declared it a success, and it has become an annual event.

"Free Sundays" at Lowell Observatory

I noticed that the Art Museum where I live had "first Tuesday of the month free" days sponsored by local businesses. The model seemed good: the public can enter for free while the sponsoring company gets publicity via "This Free Tuesday brought to you by ..." signs and announcements.

We are trying this out at Lowell Observatory. The Sciences Fund is providing seed funding for a sequence of one-per-month "free admission day" on Sundays. We are publicising the events, and pointing out the "opportunity" to the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce. The goal is that the event becomes supported within the Flagstaff business community.

See, for example, this post by RustyTweed.

Results: We ran this program at Lowell for the summer of 2009. We did not, alas, manage to convince any Flagstaff businesses to support "sponsored free admission days" in the future and my sponsorship ended after the summer. Maybe we'll try it again sometime.

Bareket Observatory

The privately-owned Bareket Observatory in Israel is providing community education and outreach in astronomy and science.

The Sciences Fund is indirectly supporting them as they build educational web-pages in Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian to popularize astronomy and science within their community.

Smaller Telescopes

Rebuilding of Boller and Chivens forty-inch telescope

This was the first grant of the Sciences Fund, and the largest. It is discussed at some length at this web-page

Funding Use of PROMPT Telescopes

This grant works with the PROMPT telescope consortium, based at UNC Chapel Hill, to make the consortium's robotic telescopes in Chile available to researchers and educators.

To learn more, visit the PROMPT website and examine the proposal form.

This is a repeating grant.


The Lowell Amateur Research Initiative attepts to match up amateur astro-imagers with professional research programs at Lowell.

For example, one research program at Lowell requires deep exposures of Milky Way neighborhood dwarf galaxies. These fairly wide-field images require significant exposure time, but do not require huge apertures.

To learn more, visit the LARI pages at Lowell Observatory.

The Sciences Fund has funded one half of the first year of LARI's expenses, which include start-up costs and staff salaries.

Titan Monitor Camera

Lowell Observatory operates a small telescope that was originally used for monitoring of Saturn's satellite Titan's brightness, and is now used for that and for other infra-red observations out to 1.6 microns. The telescope is a Planewave 0.5 meter telescope modified for infrared observing.

The original camera used with the telescope was a very early InGaAs detector that proved difficut to use well.

The Sciences Fund, in early 2015, provided a grant that enabled the purchase of a Princeton Instruments NIRvana camera.

Ohio State Supernova Search

Ohio State University has an All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae that uses small (14cm) robotic telescopes to find supernovae.

The Sciences Fund, in mid-2015, provided a grant for ongoing operational support.

"Uncle Percy"

Childrens TV Science Program

These short animated TV shows visit the Sun and Moon and planets and include a bit of science discussion along the way. The series was funded by Blue Cross of Arizona and the Sciences Fund. You can find the videos at this web-page

Kid's Camps

The success of the TV series led Lowell to create the "Uncle Percy's Kid's Camps" for children in grades one through six. You can learn about the camps at the Kids Camp home page and read about the current program at the Kids Camp for 2013 web-page. The Kids Camps are funded by grants from W L Gore and from the Sciences Fund.

Novel Systems

The AAVSO and the APASS project

This grant funds the hardware costs of an AAVSO project to create "APASS", a homogeneous whole-sky photometric survey in five bandpasses down to magnitude 17.

This multi-year project has acquired equipment and the survey is underway at a northen site and a southern site. Six data-releases have been made as of the end of 2012.

The AAVSO and the 2GSS project

This grant funds the hardware costs of an AAVSO follow-project to continue the whole-sky survey on a repeating basis -- think of it as a bright-star LSST: "Second Generation Synoptic Survey".

As of the end of 2012, two prototype wide-field telescope systems have been obtained and are being tested. We will choose one and buy several copies.