MASS members ‘observe’ Earth Day

The Math and Science Society was lucky Earth Day had a clear night.

On Earth Day, April 22, the MASS club members hosted the rededication of MCCC’s observatory and new deck.

At around 8 p.m. math and science students, staff and other visitors ventured out to the observatory, located behind the L-building, to see the new deck and get a close-up view of the moon through the telescope.

“I’m so impressed, this is really something for the community,” MCCC President David Nixon said.

The math and science students and staff kept their eyes on the sky throughout the night, pointing out the different planets that were visible in the night sky and could be viewed through the telescope.

MCCC first got the telescope in the early 1980s after Dr. Roger Spalding, professor of Physics and Astronomy, went to a conference in Flagstaff, Arizona where observatories and telescopes were discussed.

Soon after, the college bought it’s own telescope. Two or three years later, a two-person observatory was built for the telescope, since it was inconvenient to haul the telescope around, Spalding said.

After Spalding stopped teaching nighttime astronomy classes because of his physics classes, the telescope stopped being used. It was stored for six or seven years without being used in the observatory.

“We didn’t have power and the deck wasn’t safe, it was starting to break down and splinter,” Spalding said.

Last year, Associate Professor of Biology & Chemistry Lori Bean and her students wanted to use the telescope as an alternative energy project, since the telescope uses a low-energy motor to follow the Earth’s rotation and did not have any power at the time.

“Our first goal was to really just get out here and get power so we could run the telescope,” Bean said.

But when they saw the state of the deck, they thought it was going to be at least a multiple-year project, Bean said.

Bean applied for a grant in January 2009 to help with the costs of rebuilding the deck, and the new deck was built in the summer of 2009.

Bean called Spalding, Director of Physical Plant Jim Blumberg, and Assistant Professor of Construction Management Technology Alex Babycz for assistance with building the deck.

“I said, ‘I’m going to look at this as a collaborative effort across campus,'” Bean said. “We wanted to get the telescope up and running.”

Former industrial technology student Dan Lake designed the deck and oversaw the construction for it in the summer of 2009.

The power for the telescope’s motor is now linked in with the parking lot lights. It is currently lacking daytime power, which could be fixed with the use of solar panels.

Sarah Ping, MASS club president, was excited about getting to use the telescope, because in her previous astronomy classes the telescope was not being used due to the lack of power and deck.

Ping is in her last semester at MCCC, and is majoring in chemical engineering.

“I get to close the semester with a bang,” she said.