Observatory guests views Orion Nebula


Cassie Buchman

Nathan Barnett-Bishop, a sophomore engineering major, examines the telescope Friday night during the open house at the Observatory.

Analicia Haynes, Administration Editor

The numbing cold and lack of a telescope did not stop members of Eastern’s Astronomy Club from showing off the observatory at the open house Friday night.

The observatory was built by students in October of 2004 and has since been used for research, class projects or just to see what the night sky has to offer.

James Conwell, the former observatory director for nearly 30 years, said he continues to come out and show his support for the physics department despite his recent retirement.

“I do it for the students,” Conwell said. “The physics department has seen an increase in enrolment for its majors.”

Although the telescope was not working as a result of a faulty circuit board, visitors were

still able to see constellations as well as the great Orion Nebula by using green light laser pointers and binoculars.

“We use green laser pointers because they help with pointing out things to the general public,” Conwell said.

Horn said it is also nice to attach the laser to the telescope so it is easier to view things.

Conwell said that when it comes to space the distances are vast and it is possible to look at stuff before the sun was even born.

“For example, the Whirlpool Galaxy is about 35 million light years away so you’re actually seeing what it was 35 million years ago,” Conwell said.

Conwell also said the Andromeda Galaxy, which is the closest and biggest galaxy, is the most distant object you can see with the naked eye on a very dark night.

“It’s two and a half million light years away,” Conwell said. “That means you’re looking at it before people were on earth.”

Nathan Barnett-Bishop, the secretary of the club, said “we have even seen the dark side of the moon and there is no giant robot.”

Lauren Horn, the president of the Astronomy club, said Sci-Fi movies have been the biggest influence on her choice of major.

“I love everything about this,” Horn said.

Horn said being in the observatory is like being in a classroom and doing her hobby.

Students also do research on asteroids and super novas at The Astronomical Research Institute, which is just 15 miles away from campus, Conwell said.

“Bob Holmes runs it (the institute) and it currently contains the worlds largest privately owned telescope, which is three times bigger than the telescope in the observatory,” Horn said.

Horn said she found an asteroid but is waiting to find out if she was the first person to discover it so she can name it.

Horn and Conwell also said to avoid “buying a star.”

“It’s a scam,” Horn said. “My parents did it and I had to tell them.”

The observatory open house takes place on the last Friday of every month rain or shine, Conwell said.

Horn said when it comes to bracing the cold during cold open house days she learned to layer.

“Any one can join the astronomy club,” Conwell said. “It’s not just for physics majors.”


Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]