Calvin's new telescope was funded by a $130,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Calvin's new telescope was funded by a $130,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

A new telescope at Calvin College, funded by a $130,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, will be put into place in the school's observatory on Thursday, March 6 between 2 and 4 p.m.

The approximately 800-pound system, which includes the telescope, framework and a pedestal, will be lifted into place from the ground with an industrial strength crane. The plan is for the crane to roll onto campus sometime around 2 p.m. on Thursday and begin its work by about 3 p.m. The process of putting the telescope into place and bolting it in should take about an hour.

The new telescope from Optical Guidance Systems, which replaces a telescope purchased in 1970, has a 16-inch-diameter mirror and precision computer pointing. That computer pointing means more time spent looking through the eyepiece and less time waiting in the cold while the position is adjusted. The pointing precision also allows long-time exposures of faint stars and galaxies, resulting in clear images of planets at the edge of the solar system and galaxies in the distant reaches of the universe. The imaging techniques used are the same as those used by professional astronomers at major observatories.

Telescopic twin

As part of the $130,000 project, an identical telescope will be installed this summer on the campus of Rehoboth Christian School, near Gallup, NM. The New Mexico telescope will be controlled by Calvin students via the internet. Altogether, students will get some hands-on experience with the Grand Rapids telescope, while also obtaining high-quality data from the clear, dry skies of New Mexico, even when Grand Rapids is overcast.

The telescopes will be used to support general classes at Calvin as well as classes for the newly added astronomy minor. They will also complement a number of smaller instruments in use on the observing deck. All will be available for public use.

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NOTE: Contact Calvin astronomy professors Larry Molnar and Deborah Haarsma at (616) 526-6341 and (616) 526-6340 respectively. Contact Phil de Haan, director of media relations, at (616) 526-6475.

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