Friday, January 4, 2013

UNC Charlotte Looks to the Stars with New Observatory

The old UNC Charlotte observatory used to be located in front of Grigg Hall, behind the recreation fields. However, when the new football field came to fruition, the observatory was shut down along with the old recreation fields to make way for the new stadium.

To make up for this, a new modern observatory is being created on campus, next to the Police Building and the North Deck parking deck. With its sleek flat top roof, the new observatory is currently under construction, and having a brand new 14" reflecting telescope permanently installed.  "We want to use it for our first year Astronomy course and our third year Astrophysics courses," says physics and optical sciences faculty member Catherine Qualtrough, who will direct the new facility.

The Newly Installed Telescope
Though academic usage is important, the new facility will also be utilized for community events and be open for the public to come visit. "We have had a lot of interest from [public high] schools, regional schools to come use the facility." Qualtrough also plans to have public events and parties, allowing people in the community to attend and look up into the Milky Way at meteor showers, comets, planets and more.

Qualtrough has many high hopes for the new facility. "Eventually I'd like to make it more of feature -- I'd like it to be huge, with like six domes," she jokes. The staff are working with the UNC Charlotte development office to help get contributors and donors involved to better the facility even further. "With more money we can make a great facility and add to what we have with purchases such as cameras and spectrographs for the telescope."

The New Flat Roof Observatory with the Roof Closed, Open and Sliding
Though not at 100 percent completion, the facility is close to being complete, looking at an official open date some where between February and March of next term. "Our focus right now is to make sure that the telescope is secure," says Qualtrough. "The thing is massive and we don't want it to hurt anyone before we can actually do something."

Please stay tuned for further updates as the open date gets closer. Also, check out the UNC Charlotte Department of Physics Facebook page for updates on the observatory.

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