IPFW students and Fort Wayne community members will have a new place to observe celestial bodies this fall.
Construction is underway on a mini-observatory at IPFW’s north campus, along St. Joe Road, just east of Ginsberg Hall. The observatory will house a new telescope housed in a mount designed by IPFW student Mike Perkins.
Perkins designed and built the aluminum base in his grandfather’s machine shop. He also integrated control software with the telescope and a digital camera.
"The observatory will help IPFW recruit undergraduates interested in astronomy," Steve Gillam, who is building the observatory, said in a statement. "It will be a big part of the astronomy option for physics majors and will provide the tools undergrads need for astronomical research."
Gillam is assistant professor of physics at IPFW and a former NASA scientist.
Using Perkins’ integrated software, visitors to the observatory will be able to command the telescope to focus on a certain part of the night sky and record digital images and videos. Users will be able to study planets, nearby stars, as well as distant galaxies and nebulae.
Undergraduate astronomy students will be the primary users of the observatory, but Fort Wayne residents – especially school-age children – will be able to use the facility as well.
Construction is expected to be completed later today. The observatory will be operational near the beginning of the fall 2015 semester.
John Kaufeld, chief communications officer at IPFW, was unsure of the total cost of the observatory or whether there will be a fee for non-student residents interested in using the new facility. Messages left for Gillam seeking comment Monday were not immediately returned.
The project was funded by IPFW’s Department of Physics, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of Research, Engagement, and Sponsored Programs.