New observatory open to students at farm

» By ALLISON KIRK – akirk1@my.apsu.edu

During the “Physics and Friends Reunion,” a ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the Environmental Education Center in celebration of APSU’s new observatory, which had been out of commission for several years due to funding on the weekend of Aug. 19.

“We at the Environmental Education Center … were so pleased that the astronomical event went so well and there was such a good turnout,” said Donald Sudbrink, chair of the department of agriculture. “I’m very proud to be able to partner with my physics colleagues to provide an educational space for the astronomy students.”

Nikki Loos Peterson, alumni director, said, “This past weekend’s ribbon cutting ceremony and physics reunion was just a wonderful event … one that APSU has been looking forward to for much time.”

Spencer Buckner, associate professor of physics, said he initiated the idea to build the observatory in 2002. In late 2005 the dome was ordered, and by the end of 2006 the dome was finally delivered, but sat in a warehouse.

Work on the pad for the dome began in late April 2010. The dome was assembled in May and completed in the first week of June of the same year.

The telescope was picked up a few weeks later and installed that October.

The observatory could not be opened immediately because Buckner and Allyn Smith, interim chair of the APSU department of physics and astronomy had to accommodate their schedules.

The EEC was chosen as the location because of the facilities available, such as power, classrooms, buildings and bathrooms.

The dome and wall cylinder cost just under $40,000.

The telescope cost $42,000, the camera that will be put on the telescope was $15,000, the concrete pad and the site preparation was approximately $10,000.

“I thought it was great. It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad we finally achieved that objective,” said President Timothy Hall. “I’m especially excited about the opportunities this will present to our students.”

The new observatory will give students studying both astronomy and physics a place to view the universe without having to leave campus. Students previously had to journey to an observatory in rural Arizona if they wanted to witness the stars with a front row view.

Students will now be able to frequent the new observatory as often as they wish, as long as they are in the correct field of study.

“Students will feel like they own this place,” Smith said.

Upper level astronomy students will get to use the observatory for projects and research starting this semester.

Once a month, near the first quarter moon, there will be nights the observatory is open to the public, which may start by the holiday season.

Although the observatory is the newest addition to APSU’S farm, it is not the only thing the EEC has to offer.
Though EEC mostly serves students in agriculture, it assists students studying biology, military science, chemical engineering
technology and several other departments. TAS

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