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Observing the night sky becomes easier

October 9, 2010

Holly Meyer, Staff Writer

The observatory has a computerized telescope that allows one to see anything they want with the push of a button. Photo by Ashton Jones

Taking a journey to another galaxy may not be as far, or take as long, as most students might think. As a matter of fact, students don’t even have to leave the campus.

The O. Wayne Rollins Planetarium Director and Professor of Astronomy, Steve Morgan, is enthusiastic about his role working with the lights and telescopes in the planetarium.

The planetarium is where Young Harris College students and community members view pictures and images taken by telescopes and elaborate light shows. The planetarium has been at YHC since 1979. Since its construction, YHC students and local community members have been captivated by pristine images of the night sky, as well as amazed by the laser shows.

While the planetarium is great for viewing the digital sky and for laser shows, YHC was in desparate need for its own observatory. Back in the 1970s, students and astronomy professors had to lug large, bulky telescopes into the parking lots of YHC just to get a clear view of the night sky. This process, though effective, was far from perfect. Observing the night sky was still difficult due to all of the light interference from the college lights and sometimes smoggy weather.

It wasn’t until 2002, that YHC finally built its own observatory. It was constructed less than a mile from campus, adjacent to the Brasstown Valley Resort. It was then that YHC students and professors were able to get clearer, more accurate views of the solar system and other celestial objects.

Morgan emphasized the advantage the observatory has in an area like the city of Young Harris. Because of the high elevation, clear air and a significantly lower amount of light pollution, YHC is an ideal location to look through the telescope and into the vast, deep corners of the universe.

Morgan has been working at YHC since 2005.  This year, he was proud to announce that the observatory has received a new Celestron 14 inch Reflector telescope, which is already up and running.

“It’s a very nice computerized telescope, with a ‘go to’ capability,” Morgan said.

This means that if someone wanted to look at the planet Jupiter, all he or she would have to do is punch in Jupiter and press the ‘go to’ button. Then, the telescope will automatically position itself to view Jupiter.

The telescope was bought to replace the telescope that was purchased when the observatory was first built.  Due to motor function failure, the old telescope had to be replaced. Though the telescope itself has been updated, the observatory still functions without heating or air conditioner. So, students observing the night sky will be subject to the weather, regardless of how cold or hot that may be.

Despite colder temperatures in sight, Morgan welcomes YHC students to visit the planetarium for laser shows and the observatory for viewing the night sky and celestial objects.

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