Exploring under the dome

Exploring under the dome

An open house featuring UMBC’s very own telescope

Jamie Heathcote

Contributing Writer

heatjam1@umbc.edu

People of all ages were welcome to watch a meteor shower light up the sky. For many students, it was an opportunity to check out UMBC’s telescope under the dome at the very top of the physics building.

NASA’s BEST (Beginning Engineering, Science and Technology) students team sponsored the UMBC Telescope Open House: Under the Dome. For anyone interested in learning about it, the telescope was open from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Other than just being able to take a look at UMBC’s gigantic yellow telescope, attendees were presented with information about what it has to offer.

For anyone who couldn’t make it to the event on Nov. 6, open houses are scheduled for the first Thursday of every month. Unfortunately, on this first Thursday of November, the weather did not cooperate. Instead of viewing a meteor shower, attendees got a tour under the dome and observed the functions that operate the telescope.

Roy Prouty, a graduate student in atmospheric physics, said, “The purposes of these open house events are to spread awareness about STEM education and the telescope while also potentially getting people to use it.” Many students have seen the dome atop of the physics building, but don’t exactly know what hides beneath it.

After Prouty provided the audience with a brief presentation on meteors, meteoroids and meteorites, groups of people made their way up the steep ladders to the observatory. Once under the dome, children, parents and students watched as one of the technicians used a controller to rotate the telescope. Many snapped photographs and took videos of it in movement.

“The telescope was built with the building in the 2000s,” said Prouty. Alongside Prouty in the presentation, associate professor Dr. Susan Hoban, who directs her focus on comets, shared that the building was actually built around the telescope. Now students, faculty, staff and whoever’s interested are encouraged to take advantage of the open house opportunities.

During the presentation, attendees were also provided images that have been captured by the telescope, such as Uranus and a recent close-up of the moon. Normally after opening the dome, members of audience are asked to participate in astronomical observations of whatever can be seen in the sky that night.

Other than Uranus and the moon, the telescope has also obtained images of comets, nebulae, star clusters and dwarf planets. Although the foggy and rainy weather didn’t allow for an observation during this particular open house, attendees were more than welcome to explore the control room for the telescope and join in the conversation.

Hoping for no inclement weather, Prouty announced that the next open house event will be Dec. 4 at the same time. As always, it will begin in room 401 of the physics building and include a tour of the dome and its main attraction.