A fully computerized 12.5-inch Newtonian reflector telescope built by Dr. William Hrudey now resides at the newly constructed observatory building on the University College of the Cayman Islands campus in George Town.
On Monday, Dr. Hrudey and UCCI President Roy Bodden watched with anticipation as Phoenix Construction workers, with the use of a crane, hoisted the telescope through a retractable roof to come to rest on mounts in the new observation deck.
The telescope sits on a split ring equatorial mount which allows it to accurately track celestial object motions. The operator simply has to select a celestial object from a large catalogue on the computer screen and, if viewable at the time, the telescope will automatically point to the object following a mouse click. Rather than peering through the eyepiece, a custom astronomical video camera will capture the image and project it through an LCD projector on to the screen in the adjacent classroom.
The telescope is also equipped with a Baader solar filter, which will allow safe viewing of the sun. Additionally, spectroscopy will be possible using a special transmission diffraction grating. Once the observatory is up and running, which should be in a couple weeks, courses will be available to students and the general public.
Daytime and evening school tours will be provided as well as a course in amateur telescope building.
“A great deal of work has gone into this project and it is rewarding to see it approaching fruition,” Dr. Hrudey said. “The next few weeks will see us completing the final stages, including telescope configuration and software installation. We envision the grand opening to be in the third week of February.”
The building contains a classroom to accommodate 20 students and an observation deck for the telescope. The roof over the observation deck is retractable and can expose the deck to the sky.
Additional telescopes may be added in the future, Dr. Hrudey said.
The Cayman Astronomical Society will have access to the observatory and provide their expertise with a special teacher training workshop. Under the auspices of the International Astronomical Union, the workshop will be held in late March.
Mr. Bodden said it was an exciting time for the college.
“I believe that the challenges of the 21st century will be solved by sciences and technology, so I am pleased that these subject areas are being established firmly in courses at the UCCI,” he said.
A website is planned to be developed so the images will be available to all in real time on the Internet.
The project is the result of years of work and generous corporate donations. Dr, Hrudey donated the telescope to the college to encourage interest in the sciences.