The physics department has unveiled the observatory and telescope on the Gottwald Science Center roof donated by University of Richmond trustee emerita Martha Carpenter.
Ted Bunn, a physics professor involved with the telescope installation, said the telescope would be available to the wider campus community, not limited to the physics department.
"We will use the telescope in classes," he said. "The most important thing, though, is that we will have public observation nights."
Martha Carpenter, WC'51, attended the opening ceremony for the telescope and its protective dome on Tuesday, Nov. 9.
Carpenter said she donated funds for the telescope because, while the university offers astronomy classes, there has not been an operational telescope in years. "It offers great educational and research opportunities," Carpenter said. "It's something I think we needed."
She said that she had enjoyed her time at the University studying science and saw this as something that would benefit the current students. "You can't have astronomy classes very easily without being able to see all those things," she said.
Bunn said that he would be teaching a first year seminar in astronomy next year. The department also offers astronomy courses, all of which are open to non-majors, he said. "We will use the telescope for student projects in these classes," he said.
Carpenter said that she used the same model of telescope last year and saw Jupiter's moons. "It was very exciting to see those things," she said.
Bunn said that the telescope was large for a campus this size to have. "It is a modern instrument," he said. "It's very high quality. 14 inches is a good size."
The telescope has modern controls and a drive that allows users to locate objects. "Even five to ten years ago you had to know what you were doing to locate anything in the sky with a telescope," he said. "This one sort of knows how to find stuff."
He said that he hoped to train students to use the telescope, especially for public viewings. "That is where the ease of use will become really important," he said.
Henry Nebel, a physics professor, said that the University used to have a telescope. It was moved when the building was renovated from its location where the skylights in the atrium are now, he said. "We never had a dome for that telescope," he said. "That will protect it a little.
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"It is fitting that the observatory is opening in 2010," Nebel said. "This year is the 400th anniversary of Galileo discovering the moons of Jupiter, which was the first time anyone had observed anything rotating around something other than Earth. We are well-placed now to look at Jupiter's moons"
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