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SVC Installing 14" Telescope in New Observatory

Public Relations
Posted: Thursday Dec 20, 2012

Dec. 20, 2012

A 14” telescope and a new observatory are the latest additions to the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion’s astronomy laboratory.

The $13,000 computer-controlled Celestron Schmidt Cassegrain HD telescope and digital camera will be housed in the Pavilion’s nearby observatory.

The optics of the telescope, one of the largest in southwestern Pennsylvania, will allow for wide field imaging by astronomy students. The high definition digital images it captures of planets, stars, comets and other celestial phenomena can be incorporated into sky shows in the Angelo Taiani Planetarium and Astronaut Exhibit.

“Computer control allows us to point the telescope to any point in the sky by entering the digital coordinates on a keyboard,” explained Dr. Daniel Vanden Berk, assistant professor of physics and astronomy. “The attached digital camera has filters that allow us to photograph different colors and wavelengths of light. It is designed for taking pictures of very faint objects.”

“One type of object we want to monitor over time is quasars,” Dr. Vanden Berk continued. “These very distant but very luminous galaxies can tell us a great deal about distant space. Students Josh Rigone and Cameron Wisniewski are working with me on research for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The project has discovered the most quasars thus far, well over 100,000. They are analyzing images to determine whether there are galaxies close to the quasar.”

The new observatory will be more than twice as large as the former one which was housed on the roof of the Physics Building. “Located away from the main building on a concrete slab, it will feature increased stability with less vibration and no distortion from rising heat,” he noted. “Future students will have an opportunity to do real astronomy research and complete projects with results that can be published in academic journals. It is rare for a small college to have this kind of equipment and to provide these kinds of experiences.”

The new equipment was funded through a grant from the Foundation for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE).

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Photo: Dr. Daniel Vanden Berk, right, introduces Josh Rigone, left, and Cameron Wisniewski to the Boyer School’s new Celestron Schmidt Cassegrain HD telescope. 

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PR2012-590