Observatory to get better tech


Photo by Brad Dress

The Astronomy Club goes to the Observatory to view the sky and see the stars on the first Saturday of every month.

Brad Dress, Associate Editor

The Astronomy Club plans to upgrade AACC’s Observatory with better technology as soon as possible.

Jessica Harryman, a second-year stronomy major and the president of the Astronomy Club, said she plans to work on projects like Hyperstar.

In the project, Harryman plans to upgrade the observatory telescopes’ shutter speed—the acceleration of the camera lens, so the club can take better pictures of stars.

Another project Harryman said she wants to get running is Radio JOVE. In this project, Harryman plans to use a special astronomy kit to analyze radio emissions emitted by Jupiter.

These projects are funded by club fundraisers and lab fees from astronomy classes. The club hopes to have them by the fall.

The Observatory, located in Arnold at the top of the hill behind the Resource Management building, has six telescopes and a bigger one for demonstration.

“For science, you have to experience it,” Dr. Beth Hufnagel said about the necessity of the observatory. “You can read about it, talk about it, but that is not science—science is looking at it with your own eyes.”

The Observatory has two floors. The lower level has a small classroom with a few chairs and desks, and the upper has a room with telescopes and a roof that slides to reveal the sky.

The club consists of several hundred members in the Arnold community and some students from AACC, according to Hufnagel, a professor of astronomy and co-adviser of the club. John Kline, an astronomy professor, is the other adviser.

Hufnagel said approximately 30 to 50 people come on the first Saturday of every month for open observing of the sky at the Observatory.

The meeting days change every semester because of the location of the moon. If the moon is out during viewing, the stars and planets are obscured.

On the first Saturday of February, the club kicked off the semester with a speaker who spoke about Pulsars, which are rotating stars. Afterward, the members went to the Observatory and viewed the stars, planets and the moon.

Students who visited the Observatory on a recent Saturday said they were surprised to find one so sophisticated on a community college campus.

“It’s interesting to be able to see the stars up close,” Gretchen Marcussen, a first-year transfer major, said. “I think I’ll probably come back again.”

The AACC Observatory is the only one in Anne Arundel County.