Liberty to launch new observatory center

Observatory — The Equestrian Center on Liberty Mountain will be the location for the Observatory Center. Photo credit: Carter Browne

Observatory launches huge opportunity for Liberty students interested in what lies above and beyond the earth’s atmosphere will be able to get a closer look this spring when Liberty opens a new observatory.

According to Vice President of Auxiliary Services Lee Beaumont, the new Observatory Center is set to open in the spring of 2013 at Liberty’s Equestrian Center. Beaumont says that Liberty has one more rezoning meeting with the board of supervisors in Lynchburg on Oct. 2. Because the observatory will be holding classes, the board of supervisors has to have a meeting concerning the educational outcomes of the classes.

Liberty University astronomy professor Van Eaton says that the observatory has the potential to be a huge opportunity for Liberty and could even expand their astronomy program.

Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. describes the observatory as “another academic enhancement for our educational system.” Falwell also says that the observatory will be located right next to the Equestrian Center but will have no effect on the services of the center since the observatory will only be in use during the night.

Caroline Trexler, the barn manager for Liberty’s Equestrian Center, has high hopes for the observatory.

“The new observatory will introduce a greater number of Liberty students and faculty to the Equestrian Center and its location. This awareness could translate to increased student usage of the largely still unknown Equestrian Center,” Trexler says.

According to Beaumont, the observatory is made up of a classroom that fits up to 20 people, a dome with a 20-inch RC Optical Systems Truss Ritchey-Chrétien high-quality research telescope and several Celestron CPC 800 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes that will be on pedestals, with the ability to roll out under a roof.

Falwell and Beaumont both say that the 20-inch RC Optical Systems Truss Ritchey-Chrétien high-quality research telescope has such fantastic light gathering power and clear-cut imaging that no one will even be able to look directly at the moon because their eyes could be damaged. Beaumont also said that a camera can be attached to the telescope in order to capture still images. The 8-inch Celestron CPC 800 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes will have the best minicomputer technology and will give students the ability to find certain planets, such as Mercury and Venus.

Beaumont and Falwell are looking to academics to set the standard of academic research opportunities as well as the different station setups between the 20-inch and 8-inch telescopes.

According to Van Eaton, these telescopes will really add to the one 12-inch telescope that the astronomy department currently works with. Van Eaton says that the new 20-inch telescope will have about three times the light-gathering power of the 12-inch one and over six times the light-gathering power of the 8-inch telescopes. Van Eaton explains light-gathering power as how much light telescopes can capture. The more light that is captured, the better results that are obtained.

“For the 20-inch telescope, the resolution will be better, the images clearer and brighter and the images will also capture onto film more quickly,” Van Eaton said.
Van Eaton gave three purposes for the new observatory, saying that it intends to be used for instruction, public nights and research. Falwell and Beaumont are also excited about getting the community involved with the observatory because it provides a unique opportunity to see some spectacular things.

The observatory will be open to all Liberty Students under the control of Student Activities according to both Beaumont and Falwell.

“The observatory will provide yet another co-curricular, recreational activity for Liberty students to enjoy,” Chris Misiano, director of Campus Recreation, said.
“I think the observatory will be another excellent resource and opportunity for students,” Trexler said. “I am continually impressed by the consideration and effort that Liberty invests in providing such a range of activities and resources for students that seamlessly mesh education with recreation.”

The outlook of the observatory is well on its way to academic and recreational prestige.

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