Great Basin Observatory Celebrates Five Years

Published: November 22, 2021 | Author: Abbie Cochrane | Read Time: 3 minutes

Great Basin ObservatoryTwo months ago, the Great Basin Observatory, located in Great Basin National Park, celebrated its fifth year of operation. Since its opening, students and scientists from many disciplines have utilized the research facility and been dazzled by the view of the night sky from the Observatory.

The Observatory is the first permanent research-grade telescope to be built in a National Park. The park itself is famous for having the darkest skies in the United States, with no man-made light for 70 miles in every direction. Since the Observatory’s opening, three universities have worked together to promote their studies of the night sky; Southern Utah University, University of Nevada, Reno, and Concordia University, Irvine. The Observatory has provided many opportunities for education and research, leading to many discoveries and achievements from the students.

“The 5th anniversary event was a great celebration of collaboration and learning,” stated Dr. Briget Eastep, executive director of Outdoor Pathways at SUU. “It's been a lot of fun to learn from the astronomers and their students. Each year more students gain access to the observatory.”

It was also announced that the donor of the observatory’s telescope, Mike Niggli, would be donating another $250,000 for the upkeep of the telescope. This generous donation guarantees the future of the Observatory for incoming students of the next generation. And provides telescope maintenance, like the recent addition of a spectrograph installed by scientists from Concordia University, Irvine, which will provide a more detailed view of stars and galaxies.

The Observatory provides an opportunity for students to get up close and personal with a telescope, as well as learn how to operate it and perform their research. In the past five years, students from SUCCESS Academy, as well as undergraduate students, have conducted their research as well as attended seminars about double star research, the research that the observatory is famous for.

“This work has produced 23 conference presentations and 9 peer-reviewed published papers,” said SUU Professor Cameron Pace. “These papers have involved 30 student coauthors, two faculty coauthors, and three high school teacher coauthors.”

Along with the impressive literary accomplishments, Professor Pace emphasized the importance of the research in the student’s future academic and professional careers.

“The SUU students who participate in this research learn many skills that are helpful in any career,” said Pace. “For example, they learn how to read a database, use spreadsheet software, examine science images, and produce plots. Most importantly, the students hone their writing skills, which are vital to all majors and degrees.”

At the anniversary gathering, current SUU student Harrison Torgerson presented his research. Students and faculty from the partner universities also participated. The gathering also hosted many speakers of renown, including the lieutenant governor of Nevada and the Great Basin National Park superintendent. Following the remarks, the public was invited to interact with the students and their research. All students were granted the opportunity to camp out in the park and stargaze. Finally, the group was able to take a private tour of the Lehman Caves located in the park.

Overall, the park and the universities involved deemed the fifth anniversary gathering a success, and they are excited for the research and discoveries that will take place in the years to come.

Tags: Regional Services SUU Outdoors

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