|Students become star struck
RELEASED: Aug. 19, 2004
DANVILLE, KYCentre students and faculty had the opportunity this summer to explore galaxies far, far away. The highlight came when they were able to witness the transit of Venus across the sun, which happens about every 120 years.
The star gazing was made possible thanks to a $500,000 challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation Science Initiative to upgrade and endow science equipment.
The College purchased two 11-inch computer-controlled Celestron telescopes, two CCD digital cameras, and a webcam with the Kresge funds. John Burke '04 of Paris, Ky., Nathan Thompson '04 of Nicholasville, Ky., and Dr. Philip Lockett, associate professor of physics at Centre, viewed, photographed and recorded various celestial objects millions of light years away.
In addition to seeing Venus make a rare journey across the face of the sun, physics majors Burke and Thompson also observed nearby galaxies, globular clusters (clusters of millions of stars), nearby planets and nebulae.
"At Centre I took an independent study in astrophysics, and the ability to observe some of the galactic structures I studied was definitely advantageous," says Burke, now a graduate student at the University of Virginia. "The experience with the telescopes could be useful in the future for me as an instructional tool if I become a professor."
The telescopes will be used in the Introductory Astronomy class and for campus observing sessions.
One possible project he has in mind is to use the cameras to measure the brightness of stars.
"The new technology provides many exciting venues of study and research in the labs of Centre," says Thompson, now a graduate student in medical physics at the University of Kentucky.
The Kresge grant is made in two installments of $250,000. Centre has received the first installment and bought this equipment and other new equipment for the Division of Science and Mathematics. The second installment will go toward the establishment of a $1.25-million endowment for science equipment. To receive the second installment, Centre must raise $1 million for a science equipment endowment by Dec. 1, 2004.
For more on Centre's physics major, go to http://www.centre.edu/web/academic/majors/physics.html.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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