Every Friday, the Department of Astronomy holds free public viewings with their HUGE telescope. Each week there is a presentation about a different topic by astronomy graduate students. When there are clear skies, the large green dome on top of the Tate Lab of Physics Building on Northrop Mall opens up and you can look out the historic telescope kept there. You can even take small telescopes out onto the roof!
I recently got to visit the astronomy lab on top of the Tate Lab of Physics building with some College of Science and Engineering Ambassadors. Here are some of our ambassadors posing with the historic telescope!
Though I like to picture astronomy being done with telescopes like this, unfortunately they're not used anymore. All telescopes used by astronomers today utilize mirrors instead of lenses. That means that this telescope has one part that is truly irreplacable: the 10-inch glass lens. These lenses are not manufactured anymore, so if it cracks or breaks the telescope will never again be operational.
The skies were cloudy when we visited the lab, but we still got to walk around on the roof of Tate. There was an amazing view of Northrop Mall! It was hard to get a good photo of the Mall at night, but our ambassadors were enjoying their first trip to the Tate rooftop!
We were a little disappointed that we didn't get to see stars, but the astronomy department made up for it. They have 3D computer simulations of planets in orbit and light and dark matter to educate visitors. An astronomy graduate student started up the computer and showed us the simulations. To see them in 3-D we had to wear polarized glasses...and we looked pretty slick!
This was a really fun experience, and I certainly learned a lot about astronomy. These visits are free to the public every Friday while classes are in session. Even on cloudy nights, you can check out the telescope and hear a presentation from our astronomy department. If you're in the area for a campus visit, I highly recommend attending the free public viewings!