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‘Our Time to Shine:’ Dalton State Expands Astronomy Program

Micah Goulart sees telescopes as a type of time machine.

Since it sometimes takes millions of years for light from celestial objects to reach earth, looking at stars, planets, galaxies, and other objects is like looking back in time.

With the forthcoming observatory and new telescopes being added to Dalton State’s School of Science, Technology, and Mathematics, students will soon have the opportunity to experience astronomy in a whole new way.

“I have been studying radio astronomy,” said Goulart, a physics student at the College with aspirations of earning a doctorate in astrophysics. “I’m interested in optical astronomy. The new additions will be a wonderful opportunity for students interested in optical astronomy.”

The observatory will house a 24-inch, reflecting telescope, made possible by a $300,000 grant from the Mashburn Charitable Trust.

“We’re working to create a lab for our astronomy classes,” said Dr. Randall Griffus, dean of the School of Science, Technology, and Mathematics. “We now have seven telescopes, and we’ll have the observatory. Currently we’re making some minor modifications on our permit request with the state Environmental Protection Division and as soon as we get the OK from them, we’ll move forward with the observatory.”

It will be located on property owned by the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority, adjacent to the old Westside landfill. Images will be sent back to campus for research.

The observatory will allow more opportunities for student research, which could involve other galaxies, nebulas, asteroids, supernovas, and possibly extra-solar planets, said Dr. Samantha Blair, assistant professor of physics and astronomy.

“All this is beyond anything I could have possibly imagined,” she said. “Dalton State deserves this. It’s our time to shine.”

Since word has gotten out about the observatory, Dalton State received two donated telescopes. An 8-inch, Celestron reflecting telescope was donated anonymously. The Strain Family Charitable Foundation donated an 8-inch refracting telescope.

“We’ll be able to use them both for our astronomy classes,” Griffus said. “And they will both be very useful when we have public observations.”

A few times a year the public is invited to come to campus to look at the night sky through telescopes. With more telescopes, Blair hopes to make it a more regular event.

“This is really huge for us,” she said. “We’re so thankful of the recent donations.”