Following a two-year closure for renovations, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's observatory is re-opening in time for the second semester beginning Jan. 29.
"For more than a decade, the observatory has been a valuable resource for education and public outreach, allowing thousands of students and local residents to see the wonders of the cosmos," said Dr. Alan Hirshfeld, professor of physics. "I'm thrilled, not only that the observatory will be up and running again, but also that it will be the basis for the Physics Department's new cooperative outreach program with the Astronomical Society of Southern New England."
Monthly public open houses will resume in conjunction with the ASSNE, a group of veteran local amateur astronomers dedicated to public understanding of the science. In addition, the observatory will be used in the Physics Department's astronomy courses to show students the operation of a telescope and also actual celestial objects--planets, stars, nebulae and galaxies--that have been discussed in class, Hirshfeld said.
The renovations included replacement of the hand-fabricated, 20-year-old wooden dome with a modern fiberglass model. Before the new dome was to go into service, however, the observatory was damaged by a severe windstorm, which delayed its re-opening.
Now that the repairs are completed, the telescope can be re-installed and re-aligned in a spruced up facility.
The facilities department sealed the roof with metal flashing to prevent moisture, sealed and painted the wood floor and decking, provided reinforced and new stair treads and power washed the external structure. Other renovations included the installation of a safety rail and new doors.
The project was made possible through the funding from the Office of the Provost, Dean of the College of Engineering and the Observatory Development Fund.