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Group Raising Funds for UCC Observatory

Photo Courtesy of John Verardo

ROSEBURG, Ore. — It has been years since Dr. Paul Morgan first started thinking about bringing an observatory to Douglas County, but not just any type of observatory.

An adjunct professor of astronomy at Umpqua Community College (UCC), Morgan envisions a place where education meets community service. His dream is to have an observatory in Douglas County that students of all ages, community members, and web-users on the other side of the globe could use at no charge. So far, his efforts have brought in more than $56,000 for the project. Those funds are bringing Morgan to the reality that his dream is coming true.

His goal is to raise $127,000 in order to build a web-friendly observatory near the track at UCC. He says the roof would slide down, and the sky would become the canvas for the telescopes.

“It would be a simple little building,” Morgan said. “Inside is where all the good stuff is.”

Morgan is looking at equipment that would be well-suited for the weather and location of the Roseburg area–equipment with high quality optic devices, astrophysics mounts, different types of cameras, and different types of telescopes. Morgan says the observatory would be different than others because of its easy accessibility, large monitors magnifying telescopic images, and handicap access. Observers would not have to worry about small eye pieces requiring them to squint into a telescope.

Morgan hopes to set up multiple telescopes in order to see planets, nebulae, galaxies, the moon, and the sun. He hopes to have solar telescopes that see two different wavelengths of light: one picking up white, visible light; the other picking up hydrogen-alpha light. Morgan says with a visible light telescope, observers are able to see sunspots.  A hydrogen-alpha filter allows observers to see certain filaments of the sun through a narrow band.

Once the observatory opens, Morgan says his first goal is to work with students of all ages. He would like to set up a virtual classroom to live-stream images to UCC students and to kids in the area.

“I think this could greatly enhance the classroom experience,” Morgan said. “It’s important to try to get K-12 kids interested in science. To get them excited about science could help them get on a career path.”

Some images from the observatory would also be Internet-accessible.  Morgan says he hopes the campus will host public viewings, when Douglas County residents could get a first-hand glimpse into space. The viewings would also be broadcasted online for the world to see.

The observatory is scheduled to be completed by spring 2014, but Morgan is still seeking grants and private donations to fund its completion. To donate to the observatory, call the UCC Foundation at 541-440-7678 or visit its website by clicking here.

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