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Observatory images

Calvin Observatory


Observatory schedule: The observatory is now on its summer schedule. It is open on clear Wednesday evenings, one half hour past sunset until midnight. Sunset is 8:55 pm EDT at the beginning of August, gradually moving up to 8:19 pm by the end. There is no admission fee and all are welcome.


January 2018: The Science Channel has broadcast an episode of their popular level documentary series "How the Universe Works" on the topic of binary star systems. It features the discovery by Calvin Prof. Larry Molnar and a number of Calvin students that a particular contact binary star system, named KIC 9832227, may be in the process of merging and exploding. The episode can be streamed online for free.

January 2018: A paper has just been published by a team including Calvin professor Larry Molnar and Calvin students Michaela Blain, Evan Cook, and Kenton Green about brightness variation in the star KIC 8462852, commonly known as Tabby's star. The Kepler satellite showed mysterious dips in brightness from this star on several occasions over its four-year survey. The new results show the dips are wavelength-dependent: more blue light is lost than red. This result is consistent with dust along the line of sight (the origin of which remains a mystery) but rules out solid objects (such as alien megastructures, which would show wavelength independent dimming). This conclusion was long awaited and received wide media attention. Examples include The Washington Post, Sky and Telescope, and National Geographic.

November 4, 2017: Asteroid 375005 Newsome, a Hungaria asteroid discovered in 2007 by Melissa (Haegert) Dykhuis (class of 2010), has been named in honor of Deb Newsome.


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Media coverage related to the Red Nova prediction.

KIC 9832227

June 30, 2016: The Spring 2016 class of Astronomy 211 did an astrophotography project, with each of the 19 students imaging their own chosen target.

June 22, 2016: The Spring 2016 class of Astronomy 211 did a variable star discovery project, yielding seven previously undiscovered stars. These have now been entered in the International Variable Star Index, with our class given credit as discoverers.

May 9, 2016: Mercury passed in front of the Sun for the first time in 10 years. Despite an ominous weather forecast, we were able to see the transit event clearly through our main telescope (in visible light) and our solar telescope (in hydrogen alpha red light) from 8:20 am until about 2:40 pm when the last piece of Mercury cleared the Sun. Nearly 150 people stopped in to enjoy the view through the course of the day. Mercury last transited the Sun in 2006.

December 2015: A YouTube video of Jupiter by Nathan McReynolds was posted. See the orbit of the Galilean satellites and the rotation of the planet over the course of one evening as seen from our Grand Rapids telescope.

October 15, 2015: Over 200 people came to hear Calvin alumnus Dr. Thomas Strikwerda make a public presentation entitled Direct from Pluto, cohosted by the Physics and Astronomy Department and the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association.

September 27, 2015: The Calvin observatory held a special open house for the total lunar eclipse. See lowlights (clouds) and highlights at our lunar eclipse page.

September, 2015: The Spring Astronomy 212 class web pages (based on images they obtained with the Calvin Observatory) have been posted.

April, 2014: This semester's Astronomy 211 class discovered a new variable star: V1927+4538.

February, 2014: This semester's Physics 134 class has discovered eight uncatalogued asteroids. They now have the provisional designations 2014 DY20, DB21, DC21, DH21, EE1, EF1, EG1, and EH1.

January, 2013 Ten Calvin students and Professor Molnar are in the American Southwest for a three week course "Astronomy in the Southwest". Read about their adventures in their daily web log.

December 19, 2012: See the images taken by introductory astronomy students this semester with our Rehoboth, New Mexico telescope.

August 29, 2012: Five variable stars discovered in the Spring 2012 class Astronomy 211 (Planetary and Stellar Astronomy) are credited to Calvin students as new discoveries.

March 20, 2012: Two Calvin students have received grants from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium to pursue summer research in astronomy. See news article on the main Calvin page.

November 10, 2011: Four more asteroids received permanent designations, bringing to 105 the number of asteroids with discovery credit given to the Calvin observatory.

September 6, 2011:A type IA supernova has gone off in the nearby Pinwheel galaxy (M101). Compare the picture below (taken September 4) with one taken before the explosion

M101 with supernova

December 20, 2010: Asteroid (596) Scheila has had an outburst, sprouting a tail, and becoming much brighter! Observations with the Calvin-Rehoboth telescope indicate the enhanced brightness is due to a new coating on the asteroid surface. See details here.

November 28, 2010: Asteroid 2008 SG12 received the name Jackuipers!

March 21, 2011: Asteroids 2005 YO, 2008 DU4, 2009 AF17, and 2009 WD25 received the permanent designations 268488, 269147, 269374, and 269554, respectively. This brings to 77 the asteroids discovered with the Calvin College Observatory to receive such a designation! See the full list of discoveries.

Campers in the first Calvin Astronomy Summer Camp discovered six new variable stars! For details on the scientific discoveries made in this science summer camp, click here.

At 7 pm on February 17, Calvin hosted a special presentation on Benjamin Banneker, the first African-American scientist. See the details in the event flyer.

A class of Calvin students set off for the American Southwest in January for a three week course "Astronomy in the Southwest". Relive the adventure through their daily web log.

Observatory Director: Prof. Larry Molnar 616-526-6341
Telescope Dome on campus: 616-526-6435


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August highlights

Evening observing this month features all four of the brightest planets, perhaps the best lineup we've ever had. Venus is brilliant in the early evening, appearing like a first quarter moon in the telescope. Jupiter is up all evening, accompanied by its four large moons. Saturn is up all evening, and is currently tilted to show its ring system at its best. Finally, Mars is up all evening (getting higher in the sky over the course of the night). Having just passed its favorable opposition, it remains bigger and brighter than it will be for the next 15 years.