Purdue Northwest Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Appointed New NW Indiana Robotic Observatory Director

Rengstorf-AdamA Purdue University Northwest faculty member has assumed additional responsibilities as director of the Northwest Indiana Robotic (NIRo) Observatory.

As appointed head of Northwest Indiana’s premiere optical astronomy research facility, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Adam Rengstorf of Valparaiso oversees all aspects of the observatory, management and maintenance of its NIRo Telescope and support facilities, and administration of research and education programs at the observatory.

The NIRo Telescope is housed in at the Calumet Astronomy Center located at Buckley Homestead County Park in Lowell. Rengstorf played a key role in the former Purdue University Calumet’s acquisition of a $150,000 National Science Foundation grant that helped bring the high-powered telescope to Northwest Indiana in 2008.

Asteroid monitoring
Rengstorf has used the NIRo Telescope to teach astronomy classes and mentor some 20 physics and engineering research students to engage in asteroid monitoring. The reflecting telescope permits cutting-edge astronomical research and project-oriented science education.

“Our students benefit from direct involvement in observational astronomy research,” Rengstorf said. “In small, faculty-mentored groups, research students are trained to use the telescope and other equipment. They learn how to obtain, calibrate, and analyze astronomical images and how to prepare scientific results for publication and presentation.”

Equipped with a thermoelectrically-cooled, charge-coupled device (CCD) imager, the NIRo Telescope can produce distortion-free images of a field of view as large as the full earth moon.

Though Purdue Northwest does not offer a degree in astronomy, students who are interested in the discipline may participate in observational astronomic research and pursue a minor in the astrophysics program of study.

“Dr. Rengstorf is an expert in observational astronomy with an interest in near earth asteroids,” Interim Dean and Professor of PNW’s College of Engineering and Sciences K. Chris Holford said. “This area of astronomy has become increasingly important, particularly as we have become more aware of near-earth asteroids and the need to identify and track these objects.”

Engaging NW Indiana
Continuing, Holford said, “Under Dr. Rengstorf’s capable leadership, the NIRo Observatory is another example of how the PNW College of Engineering and Sciences and its Department of Chemistry and Physics are engaging Northwest Indiana in applied science and education. In addition to PNW students gaining valuable learning experiences at the NIRo Observatory, researchers have been able to use the observatory to collaborate with our communities.”

NIRo Observatory partnerships with the Calumet Astronomical Society and the Lake County Parks and Recreation Department also have enabled joint sponsorships of community events.

A Purdue Northwest and Purdue Calumet faculty member since 2005, Rengstorf holds a baccalaureate degree from Binghamton (NY) University and master’s and doctoral degrees from Indiana University.

Purdue University Northwest
Purdue University Northwest (PNW), a comprehensive regional university within the Purdue University system, has two Northwest Indiana campuses in Hammond and Westville. The university was established by the unification in early 2016 of the former Purdue University Calumet and Purdue University North Central. With more than 15,000 students and nearly 70 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, Purdue Northwest is Indiana’s fifth largest public university. For more information about PNW, visit www.pnw.edu.