Smith College Admission Academics Student Life About Smith news Offices
Five College Calendar
Smith eDigest
Submit an Idea
News Archive
News Publications
Planning an Event
Contact Us
News & Events
By Eric Weld   Date: 3/20/09 Bookmark and Share

Telescope Offers Closer View of Space Phenomena

The new Meade telescope awaiting installation.

Lowenthal tightening the final screws during the installation of the telescope.

It’s International Astronomy Year and, fittingly, a new telescope just arrived in Smith’s astronomy department that will enable direct views of distant galaxies, rings and satellites around Saturn, surface features on Mars and much more.

The new Meade LX200 ACF, a $13,000 telescope installed this week in the rooftop observatory of McConnell Hall, replaces a 15-year-old Meade telescope that wasn’t functioning sufficiently.

“We sank lots of time and resources into trying to get the old one to work,” explained James Lowenthal, associate professor of astronomy. “The optics, unfortunately, never worked properly.”

With the new telescope, space observers will be able to view objects in space more than 3,000 times fainter than those visible to the naked eye, said Lowenthal. “It will afford direct views of galaxies tens of millions of light years distant, gaseous nebulae in our own Milky Way galaxy, where clusters of stars are being born, the glowing remnants of supernovae and other stellar corpses, storms in the atmosphere of Jupiter, phases of Venus, and craters on the Moon as small as a mile across.”

The telescope will be used for classes such as AST 337, Observational Techniques of Optical and Infrared Astronomy, in which students learn to use professional tools of the trade, as well as for astronomy department “star parties” and for research projects.

Already, the new telescope has yielded spectacular views, said Lowenthal, who gathered with colleagues earlier this week to take a look. “We are all delighted to report that the telescope performs exceptionally well optically, mechanically and electronically,” he said. “I got fabulous views of Saturn plus six satellites.”

The telescope was purchased with proceeds from the Ethel Farrington Fund, which was bequeathed to the physics and astronomy departments for research and educational equipment.

The new telescope will likely get plenty of use in upcoming sky-viewing sessions as part of the astronomy department’s participation in the International Year of Astronomy. Stop by McConnell for the next star gazing open house on Thursday, April 2, 8:30-9:30 p.m. to see it for yourself.

View more photos of the installation.

DirectoryCalendarCampus MapVirtual TourContact UsSite A-Z