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New astronomical observatory being built at Shepherd

ISSUED: 18 October 2005
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens
304/876-5465
(New astronomical observatory being built at Shepherd)

Editor's Note: Click on the thumbnail below for a printable image.

This image of the Moon is the result of stitching together ten small overlapping lunar pictures into a single large mosaic. Lunar pictures taken on Sept 11, 2005 through the 8-inch Shepherd 1998 Senior Class Memorial Telescope by Shepherd senior Tara Roberts and faculty member Dr. Jason Best at the site of the new Shepherd University Observatory.

Shepherdstown, WV--Shepherd University is building a new astronomical observatory on the roof of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies. The observatory, which includes a dome, telescope, and research equipment, is made possible by a grant from the West Virginia Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

The Innovation Grant was awarded to Dr. Jason Best, associate professor of astrophysics, and is the first in Shepherd's history. Other funding is provided by Shepherd University and Dr. Raymond Smock, director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies.

"The new observatory will allow us to expand our teaching, research, and outreach efforts in astronomy," said Dr. Best. "Astronomical observatories represent the essence of humanity's ongoing quest for knowledge, our desire for discovery. We are pleased to have such a scientific facility at Shepherd and invite the campus community and public to share in the wonders of the universe with us.

"We have been successful in using current equipment, such as the 1998 Shepherd senior class memorial telescope, in our courses and public outreach efforts. The observatory will significantly enhance activities in those areas. Furthermore, the new instrumentation creates never before possible on-site observational research opportunities for our students."

"The opening of the observatory is a significant development in Shepherd's growth as a regional university," said Dr. Burt Lidgerding, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "It will allow Shepherd to provide educational opportunities in astronomy to area schools and that is the type of opportunity a regional university should provide to the community."

In addition to the 15-foot diameter dome, the grant purchased a computerized reflecting telescope with a 14-inch diameter mirror. The additional acquisition of a CCD camera and spectrograph as part of the grant will allow students to acquire color images and research data.

Once the observatory is open, information about public astronomy open houses and other observatory events will be posted on the Shepherd University astronomy Web site, www.shepherd.edu/astronomy/.

-30-HORST

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