Photo Caption: Dr. Harry Augensen, director of the Widener Observatory, looks out at the night sky alongside a 16-inch Meade Cassegrain reflecting telescope.
CHESTER, Pa.– The Widener University Observatory will celebrate its 10-year anniversary with a special public stargazing session on Friday, Feb. 20 from 7:30-9 p.m. The event is free, and interested participants are encouraged to register by contacting Theresa Sminkey at email@example.com or 610-499-4003. Light refreshments will be served.
Dr. Harry Augensen, professor of physics and astronomy and director of the Widener Observatory, initiated public stargazing sessions in 2002 using portable telescopes until the Widener Observatory was completed in 2005. Now, visitors can view the night sky using the observatory’s 16-inch computerized Meade Cassegrain reflecting telescope and several smaller 12-inch telescopes.
At the start of the Feb. 20 anniversary viewing, visitors will find the crescent moon and the planets Mars and Venus close together. They’ll also see clearly the planet Jupiter, the Orion Nebula, the crimson star R Leporis, and the double star Almach, which shines with the colors of Widener: blue and gold.
In addition to the Feb. 20 viewing, public stargazing sessions at the Widener Observatory typically run the first Friday of every month and every Monday during the academic year. Find all of the dates for the year at www.widener.edu/stargazing.
“Our observatory is a special place because of the people who are involved with it – our students, alumni and faculty,” said Augensen. “We are committed to showing people in the local community, as well as our own Widener community, the many sights in our sky above.”
In addition to public stargazing sessions, Augensen also takes requests for group sessions and has entertained students from the Widener Partnership Charter School, Cub Scouts and senior groups. He even once helped orchestrate a marriage proposal. He also regularly organizes nights for area teachers through the secondary level. The next stargazing session for teachers takes place on March 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Widener students also benefit from the observatory. Those in introductory classes can see objects they are learning about in the classroom firsthand, while higher-level science students can use the observatory equipment to measure variability in certain stars.
“I never get tired of seeing students’ eyes light up after they’ve looked through the telescope and have seen something they’ve only read about up until that point,” said Augensen. “This observatory makes for transformational learning experiences. We are lucky to have it as a resource on the Widener University campus.”