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2015 August 24 - 08:51 pm

Ore. College Is Site of Digital Observatory

Facility Will House Five Telescopes for Stargazers


ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) — Astronomer Paul Morgan has a reminder for people who see his digital observatory at Umpqua Community College for the first time.

It’s not what’s on the outside that counts.

“It’s going to look like a simple shed,” Morgan said minutes before a ceremonial groundbreaking for what he said will be the only virtual telescope in America.

Morgan, UCC administrators and astronomy enthusiasts were gathered near the UCC track to break ground for a new 16-by-24 digital observatory more than 10 years in the making. The wooden structure, expected to be completed in early September, will house four to five telescopes and feature a roof that will roll back to unveil a whole new world for school children, UCC students and the rest of the community.

“I’m so excited they are doing this,” said Kasey Hovik, a longtime astronomy enthusiast watching from under a big white canopy. Anybody observing the stars at the digital observatory won’t need to fight for time to use the eyepiece of a traditional telescope.

Morgan said video or chargedcoupled (CCD) cameras will broadcast images from the tele scopes to television monitors at the site in real time. It will be the only digital-imaging observatory in the northwest, Morgan said.

But it gets even better. Morgan, an astronomy instructor at UCC, said the observatory will be connected to a fiber optic Internet line, allowing it to stream information and visuals in realtime to anywhere in the world. The only other virtual observatory is in Italy, Morgan said.

“We’re going to be able to be the American virtual observatory,” Morgan said, drawing enthusiastic applause from the crowd.

Morgan has raised $6,500 for the observatory so far, but more money is needed. He said it will take an additional $10,000 to finish the project. Based on the outpouring of support so far, Morgan is confident that enough donations will come through.

“We’ve had such wonderful support from the community,” Morgan said. “Everybody that I’ve asked for help has given it to me.”

Information from: The News- Review, http://www.nrtoday.com

Also from MIKE HENNEKE, THE NEWS-REVIEW

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