In a move that has promoted inter-faculty mingling on the University of Alberta campus, science now has a foothold in the Fine Arts Building with an observatory open on its rooftop, allowing students to discover more about the solar system that exists right over our heads.
The U of A’s Physics Department decided to move one of its telescopes to the roof of the Fine Arts Building (FAB) in February last year in order to maintain its services to the community while it awaits its new home in the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS), scheduled to open in 2010.
“When the physics building was torn down, the [Physics Department] thought that the observatory was an important enough attraction to try and keep doing,” said Physics Department Associate Chair Sharon Morsink.
The “FABservatory” is open to visitors every Thursday evening during the academic year and will open once a month on the Thursday closest to a first quarter moon during the summer. Upon completion, the observatory will move into CCIS, where Morsink hopes to acquire a solar telescope to compliment the current 12-inch Cassegrain telescope.
Morsink stated that the observatory has the potential to bring together those involved in the scientific community while demonstrating the exciting things that can be observed.
“I think it’s important to try and engage the public in science and get them to see what can be exciting about it, I think there is a lot of excitement looking through a telescope, and when people see the rings of Saturn for the first time it’s really odd, it’s hard to believe they could look so good,” she said.
Adding that a background in science isn’t necessary to appreciate the services the observatory offers free of charge, Morsink hopes to attract visitors beyond the scientific community.
“I think it’s similar to how everyone can enjoy dinosaur exhibits, even if you don’t actually want to study the science, you can still find it exciting.”