The stars will always be out
Public viewings through the newly-constructed telescope were given last Tuesday before the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the addition to Herty Hall.
Ground was broken in November 2009 for an extension of the east side of Herty Hall, Georgia College’s primary location for the science department. Monday, almost three years later, GC President Steve Dorman cut the blue ribbon and officially opened the wing to the public.
The new extension is home to an observatory equipped with one of the most powerful telescopes in Georgia. However, it’s somewhat a surprise that it’s in so soon.
“The original contract we had was to build the building without the observatory,” construction manager Byron Waters said. “That was supposed to be a future add-on, but they decided to do the whole project at once. We had to restructure the building midstream of the project.”
Building the extension was a $5 million project. Georgia state Sen. Johnny Grant spoke during the ribbon cutting ceremony and elaborated on the funding that went into the project.
“We were able to get the $3.4 million in the appropriations bill,” Grant said. “We were able to get the project all the way through the process, right to the governor’s signature.”
The add-on to Herty Hall is used primarily for laboratories and office space, giving disciplines like environmental science more room to work. The observatory now provides physics and astronomy majors hands-on experience with telescope equipment.
Chemistry professor Doug Pohl and his wife, Gail Pohl, provided funding for the $125,000 telescope. Physics and astronomy professor Donovan Domingue then purchased the telescope through purchased the telescope through PlaneWaves, a telescope manufacturer in California.
“The diameter of the scope is 24 inches,” Domingue said, elaborating on the technical aspects of the scope. “Since that is over twice the size of the smaller telescope we have outside, we have four times as much light collected by the telescope. This means we can image galaxies and nebulae in just less than a second.”
The telescope was ordered in August of 2011 and was installed in May of 2012. The installation process was risky since the weight of the telescope necessitated the use a crane for placement.
“The crane had to lower the whole system into the room,” Domingue said. “They had to be very steady because the base weighs over 800 pounds.”
Now that the telescope is officially operational, groups such as the astronomy club can capitalize on hands-on experience.
“We are learning how to use a camera that we can attach to it and take pictures of stars,” Nicholas Daniel, freshman physics major, said. “But since the telescope is so new, we’re mainly just learning how to use it for now.”
Chemistry, physics and astronomy Chair Ken McGill revealed that the residents of Milledgeville would be able to get a glimpse of space during the months to come.
“The astronomy club will do a public viewing at least once a month depending upon the weather,” McGill said. “On our website we will have announcements when we are going to be open.”