New astronomy lab and observatory at UNCA slated to open early next year

Press release

From UNC Asheville News Services:

UNC Asheville’s new Astronomy Laboratory/Observatory, slated to open early in 2014, will provide the university, area K-12 schools and the community with an important new facility for teaching about science and observing the universe.

UNC Asheville physics faculty and advanced students will use the facility for research and study. The new facility also will be used by the 300 UNC Asheville students who study introductory astronomy, and be accessible to science classes in Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools. Community astronomers, led by the Astronomy Club of Asheville, also will have access to observe the night skies from this new laboratory/observatory.

“The optical astronomy lab will give students hands-on experience with telescopes and related state-of-the-art instrumentation,” said Brian Dennison, UNC Asheville’s Glaxo Wellcome Professor and professor of physics. “This will complement our ongoing work in radio astronomy that we carry out in partnership with the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute near Brevard.”

The new laboratory/observatory, built in partnership with the Astronomy Club of Asheville, is a small, single-story building that sits below the ridgeline on a hill at the end of Nut Hill Road, on UNC Asheville property just north of the Reuter Center on the campus. The site’s benefits as an observatory include minimal vibration and light pollution.

The 1,300-square-foot building has a low-pitched roof that slides back for full-sky astronomical viewing with two 14-inch optical telescopes equipped for remote viewing and high-quality photography. The facility was built with a $546,000 donation from the Astronomy Club of Asheville, and was designed by Padgett & Freeman Architects of Asheville.

“This observatory will bring our solar system and the universe a whole lot closer to the residents of Asheville, Buncombe County and our region,” said Bernard Arghiere, president of the Astronomy Club of Asheville. “There are many wonderful astronomical images available today, but nothing takes the place of observing a planet or other celestial objects directly in the telescope eyepiece.”

Additional tree removal needed for observatory sightlines will begin October 21, 2013. Hiking trails through the university’s 65-acre north property which houses the laboratory/observatory will be closed during that work. UNC Asheville will host a public information session for university neighbors at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Sherrill Center, Mission Health Mountain View Conference Room.

“We will come forward as soon as we can with plans for community star-gazing once university class sessions, K-12 class trips, and Astronomy Club of Asheville sessions are set,” said Keith Krumpe, UNC Asheville dean of natural sciences. “UNC Asheville is grateful for the support of the Astronomy Club of Asheville and proud to be able to offer this new facility to our students and the community.”


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