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New observatory to open this spring

August 28, 2012 : By Drew Menard/Liberty University News Service

This is an example of a roll-off roof room that will be featured at Liberty's new observatory set to open Spring 2013.

Liberty University students will be able to explore the heavens like never before with high-powered telescopes and a majestic, clear view of the sky at a new observatory planned at the Equestrian Center on Liberty Mountain.

The observatory, which was approved by the Campbell County Planning Commission on Monday, Aug. 27, still requires approval from the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 2. Pending that approval, the facility will be open to students later in the spring semester.

The approximately 1,000-square-foot facility will include a roll-off roof room with several 8-inch telescopes and a 10-foot DIA dome with a high-powered research-quality telescope.

The equestrian center site on Liberty’s Campbell County property (off of Sunnymeade Road) provides a prime location for the observatory, with open space, minimal light noise, and a stunning view of the night sky.

Liberty’s developers visited the nearby Belk Astronomical Observatory at Lynchburg College where they collaborated with experts and drew inspiration for much of its design.

The observatory will feature an RC Optical Systems 20-inch Truss Ritchey-Chrétien telescope, which is a high-quality research telescope and will be equipped with a charge-coupled device camera for exceptional photographs.

Designers of Liberty's new observatory drew inspiration from Belk Astronomical Observatory at Lynchburg College. Liberty's observatory will feature a similar layout and dome.

Several smaller telescopes — Celestron CPC 800 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes — will be available in the roll-off roof observatory room. These telescopes are more portable and are easy to use with features like GPS technology and electronic digital compasses.

Some telescopes will be available remotely, allowing users to control them from a computer.

“The observatory will provide yet another co-curricular, recreational activity for Liberty students to enjoy,” said Chris Misiano, director of Campus Recreation. “From horseback riding to whitewater rafting, and now to star-gazing, there are a variety of opportunities to get involved in outdoor recreation.”

Beyond recreation, the observatory will serve as a welcome asset to Liberty’s academics, providing top-notch research equipment and a convenient, fun hands-on supplement to the classroom.

“This news is a tremendous blessing,” said Roger Schultz, dean of Liberty’s College of Arts and Sciences. “With the new facility, we are pleased to talk about new opportunities we will have to serve our students. This is going to be an incredible advantage for them and the faculty.”

Liberty currently has an upper-level astronomy class and is considering adding a lower-level general education course in astronomy.