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What you need to know for 11/18/2017

Siena College to build observatory

Siena College to build observatory

Structure will house largest telescope in Capital Region
Siena College to build observatory
An artist's rendering, provided by Siena College, shows what the new observatory will look like.
Photographer: Provided

LOUDONVILLE – Siena College is planning to start construction in July on an observatory that will stand atop Roger Bacon Hall.

The structure, once complete, will house the largest telescope in the Capital Region, according to a prepared statement.

The college received a $467,402 grant from Maryland-based Sherman Fairchild Foundation to build the observatory, which is expected to be up and running by the fall, according to Rose A. Finn, professor of physics and coordinator of the grant application. 

The permanently-mounted telescope will be housed in a 16-foot observatory, topped by a rotating dome with a retractable opening. The telescope will feature a 27-inch diameter mirror that can be remotely controlled via the internet, according to a prepared statement about the project.

The telescope will allow eyepiece observing of such favorites as the moons of Jupiter and Saturn’s rings and will have sophisticated imaging that will be used to track near-Earth asteroids and to follow the fading light of exploding stars, according to Finn. In addition, a spectrograph will allow for analysis of the chemical compositions of stars, nebulae and galaxies. 

In addition to physics and astrophysics faculty and students, the observatory will be used by the more than 30 percent of Siena students who take astronomy as a liberal arts elective, according to Finn.

Public observing sessions will be offered throughout the year, as well, according to the prepared statement.

 “One of our goals when applying for the grant was to increase our community outreach and make our observatory available to school groups, scouting troops or anyone who has a genuine interest in astronomy,” Finn said. 

“This observatory will be an important part of STEM education at Siena and our outreach to the wider community,” said John P. Cummings, dean of the School of Science and co-author of the grant proposal. “We are extremely grateful to the Sherman Fairchild Foundation for their generosity and their support of the College’s science program.”

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