SAU Buzz

Local astronomers gather for star party

by Michael Pace
Posted on Oct 25, 2018

Over the summer and into the fall St. Ambrose University and the Quad Cities Astronomical Society teamed up to host multiple Star Parties.

A Star Party is when a series of professional and amateur astronomers come together to look at the stars through their telescopes.  The public is usually invited to participate in the event.

“The purpose of the star party is to introduce the public to astronomy and for them to use the telescopes to view the wonders of the night sky,” Robert Mitchell, astronomer and professor, said.

The last star party was held on Sept. 15, at St. Ambrose University’s Sebastian Menke Observatory.  The Menke Observatory complex has two buildings: a a dome observatory and a roll off observatory.

The dome observatory houses a 14-inch reflector telescope.

The roll off observatory houses a 14-inch reflector telescope, a 12.5-inch reflector telescope and a eight inch reflector telescope.

Although the observatory is owned by St. Ambrose, the university does not currently have an astronomy or space program, but the course Astronomy 201 is offered to students.

“The purpose of the observatory is for public outreach and STEM,” Mitchell said.

St. Ambrose’s first observatory was built in the early 1960s on St. Ambrose’s main campus.

In the early 1980’s it was torn down and for Lee Lohman Arena was built in its place.

“The dome, the telescope and the equipment was put into storage until the current site became available,” Mitchell said. “In fact, the original four inch Unitron reflector telescope is on display at the library.”

“I have been an astronomer ever since grade school,” Mitchell explained.  “I have been a professional astronomer ever since I came to St. Ambrose in 2001, and I got the job at St. Ambrose right out of grad school”.

A house with a grass field

Description generated with very high confidence

Main building with dome

 

A field of grass

Description generated with high confidence

Roll off observatory roof closed

A bench in a grassy field

Description generated with high confidence

Roll off observatory open

A picture containing sky

Description generated with very high confidence

14-inch dome reflector aimed at the moon

A picture containing object, telescope

Description generated with very high confidence

14-inch dome reflector

A picture containing floor, ground, sitting

Description generated with high confidence

Front view of 14-inch dome reflector

A picture containing sky, object, telescope

Description generated with high confidence

14-inch Roll Off observatory reflector telescope

A picture containing telescope, man, object, plane

Description generated with very high confidence

Mitchell with 12.5-inch roll off observatory reflector telescope

A person sitting in a field

Description generated with high confidence

Quad Cities Astronomical Society member preparing his own telescope

A picture containing grass, outdoor, tree, person

Description generated with very high confidence

Quad Cities Astronomical Society member setting up his telescope with an astronomical camera