EU's physics department growing astronomically

Photo: Grace Lehrian
This is the old telescope that can now be found in the museum on the first floor of Cooper Hall.

By Grace Lehrian
News Editor/Spectator

Edinboro University’s physics department has the chance to work alongside of NASA on a supernova project due to the technological improvements recently made to the celestial telescope found in Cooper Hall’s observatory.

NASA is looking to employ telescopes of all different sizes, and Edinboro University’s telescope is large enough to participate in the project. The telescope was once controlled manually, but was upgraded to respond manually using programs such as K-star and Lin Guider.

K-star and Lin Guider make it possible for a student to pinpoint where he or she wants the telescope to focus. The telescope will then be able to find it and lock onto the object, so it follows that object with the earth’s rotation.

This upgrade cost about $35,000 and was funded by the FFA. A very generous portion of the money also came directly from the Dean’s fund. The renovations to the observatory including replacing the carpet, removing the rust, removing the control booth and making the entire system controllable via remote.

Dr. Richard Lloyd, the department chair of physics and technology expressed his excitement for where the physics department is going.

“I happen to think it’s the most exciting major to get into, maybe that’s prejudice, but that’s the way I feel about it,” said Lloyd.

“With physics I think you have to satisfy a certain curiosity that people look for.” 

He encourages students who are interested in “fundamental science” to take a look into the physics program Edinboro offers.

The telescope is one of the biggest “toys” the physics department has to offer students. Once the telescope is completely set up in the next few weeks, Lloyd said he had a few plans to get students involved in using it.

“Hopefully, what we will be able to do is to have students work on the observing system as a project based platform, and by that I mean they can look at the spectrum of stars and classify them. They can use this to tell how old the star is. We can also tell how fast objects are moving,” said Lloyd.

Lloyd and Dan Holler have already been able to capture an AVI of Jupiter. Once they have captured this series of photos, they were able to layer them on one another to create a clearer picture of the planet. Lloyd also said that he and students are capable of measuring how quickly Jupiter is rotating. He described these capabilities to be “standard.” Another goal of the physics department is to train students how to work in an observatory.

“It’s easy enough that they can actually do everything hands on…they can do anything they want,” said Lloyd

“If they were to go to some other observatory, then they wouldn’t find the transition [to be] too much of a change.”

Many students end up going to graduate school after completing the physics program at Edinboro University, and many of the graduates have gone to reputable schools. The students who complete the program at Edinboro are believed to have an average GPA of about 3.0, according to Lloyd.

In the future, Lloyd would like to add astronomy major to be available as an option to students.

Grace is the news editor for the Spectator. She can be reached by eupnews.spectator@gmail.com