The science faculty at the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University has received a huge upgrade for the coming semester. After unveiling the largest telescope in Atlantic Canada this past year, the university has also approved a physics degree for the campus, with students able to start the 4-year program as of this fall semester.
This marks Grenfell’s seventeenth degree program, and its fourth science program. In a university press release, the vice-principle of Grenfell Campus, Mary Bluechardt, commended the physics department on the work that it has taken for the creation of this program, stating: “The dedicated physics faculty has been working for many years to make this reality.”
The observatory is a major component of the program. Offering courses focusing on particle physics and astronomy, which cannot be completed at the St. John’s Campus, the observatory will be crucial to offering students hands on experience.
“With the addition of the new telescope in the observatory, we’re confident that students in the physics program will graduate with a thorough, in-depth knowledge which will serve them well as they seek careers or pursue further education,” said Bluechardt
According to Observatory Director Doug Forbes, students can look forward to “’discovering’ Pluto, getting the light curve of a rotating asteroid, and measuring the heights of lunar mountains,” amongst other things.
While the observatory is a key component of the university’s research and education facilities, it also has major applications for public outreach.
The observatory has been open for public tours since July, and has already had over 400 visitors, despite losing time due to construction on campus.
As the semester begins, the observatory will continue to be an important tool for facilitating university interaction with the community and surrounding area.
“We’ll be starting up public tours again in early September, and it will be available for tours by school groups then as well,” said Forbes.
For those hoping to do some casual learning about the science of stargazing, Forbes hopes that the observatory will prove to be an important resource.
“A community education course is being planned for the coming spring, and we continue to try to make the observatory web site a useful source of general astronomy information.”
Contingent on funding opportunities, Forbes also hopes that the observatory will allow the university to attract guest speakers to the campus for regular presentations.
While new on campus, the observatory is establishing itself as an asset to students, researchers, and the public. With potential projects including studying asteroid composition, monitoring light output of stars, and even finding extra-solar planets, perhaps the observatory website summarizes the potential of the telescope best: “The sky’s the limit!”
For the latest information and tour opportunities, visit the website www.grenfell.mun.ca/observatoryScience and Tech on Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 at 10:21 am.