LeTourneau University unveils dark sky observatory near Avinger
AVINGER, Texas (KLTV) - LeTourneau University’s observatory was recently built on a property near Avinger so students can get away from light pollution and use the university’s telescopes properly
There are astrophysics classes at LeTourneau University and the school has several powerful telescopes, but they haven’t been able to take full advantage of them. And that’s because they didn’t have a dark enough place to view distant objects until recently.
LeTourneau Physics and Astronomy Professor Richard Miller says students can use university telescopes in Longview, but there are limits.
“We can view the sun, the moon. We can see Jupiter, Saturn, but stars, galaxies are tough with all the light pollution,” Miller said.
But now they can see much more distantly because of their Dark Sky Observatory they built:
“Out between Jefferson and Avinger where the light pollution is much less of a factor,” Miller said.
Miller says city lights wash out the dim and distant, so the observatory will take students into hands-on learning about,
“Astro imaging, and also what’s called Astro spectroscopy where you’re actually able to identify the element or chemical composition of things that you cannot even begin to talk about visiting,” Miller said.
Miller says some LeTourneau alumni gave permission for their property to be used, so they were able to build an observatory that looks like a small outbuilding out there in the dark.
“Both sides of the roof open up to make the sky fully visible,” Miller said.
That will make it possible to take long-exposure images.
“You could spend two hours taking images of a single object. And then you end up having to do all the processing of that. It is not a simple process,” Miller said.
So soon students will take part in patiently waiting next to a telescope while it tracks an object in deep space. The images have the potential to be beautiful, but it is like watching paint dry, or light absorb.
None of the university telescopes are left in the observatory since it’s a two-hour round trip and they can still be used in the city limits of Longview. They are working on a plan to begin using the observatory.
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