This is a project to upgrade the infrastructure at the University of Wyoming Infrared Observatory (WIRO) 2.3 meter telescope. The main objectives are (1) to replace an antiquated, custom-built telescope control system (software and hardware) with modern, robust commercial components, (2) to initiate a Night with an Astronomer partnership with the Casper Planetarium and to provide telescope access to Wyoming's community colleges to give students and faculty opportunities for science training at UW and WIRO, and (3) to offer a service observing program of 150 clear hours per year to the national community on any of three existing WIRO instruments.
Despite its remote location the Wyoming Infrared Observatory conducts an active outreach program for the general public. The largest of these is the WIRO Open House that occurs every October in conjunction with the University's homecoming weekend. Over 15 volunteers from the astronomy faculty and students host ~150 members of the general public on one chosen Friday evening each year. Most nights are clear and visitors are treated to a tour of the facility, a movie on the history of the observatory, talks by students on their research projects using the telescope, and, weather permitting, a view through the 2.3 m telescope; it is the one night per year where an eyepiece is installed. Small telescopes are set up outside and UW astronomers describe some of the ongoing astronomical research using WIRO. WIRO staff give at least one additional tour per month to private groups requesting such tours. As part of this NSF program, we had proposed to conduct regular "Observer with an Astronomer" skype sessions for the general public who were gathered remotely at the Casper planetarium. During 2010 the low-power microwave link from campus to the observatory failed, precluding remote skype sessions with the general public. It was not until the summer of 2012 that funding was secured to install a licensed, dedicated 150 mb/s microwave internet link. It is our hope to resume this program now that reliable internet connectivity has been restored.