What’s up with the BRS observatory?

In a word, Nothing. Nothing is wrong.

Blue Ridge is actually involved with two observatories.  Up on Flattop mountain is the Blue Ridge observatory owned and operated by an enthusiastic amateur astronomer.  The school will inherit that observatory at some point in the future. Thanks to a generous grant from the Hall family, we were able to purchase the blue and white mini observatory now located near the climbing tower.  The Science department was also able to buy a laptop and an astronomical digital camera.

From its inception we have been using this second observatory as the centerpiece for any number of real-world projects.  Students have constructed the wood deck the observatory rests on as well excavating and forming a concrete foundation for the telescope itself.  Bolted atop the four feet of concrete is a steel pier cut and welded by boys.  To the top of the steel pier is an adjustable plate (designed by a student) that enables us to align the scope towards the North Pole.

More recently, students have researched, purchased and installed solar panels.  The observatory is off the grid and teaches us about electricity and sustainability.  This year a student has manipulated software that lets us control the scope via our laptop.  Other students have worked to make the observatory nearly waterproof while others struggle to build a platform that will allow us to easily slide the building’s dome off and away from the scope, clearing its lines of sight.  “Green” led lighting has been sourced by students who will then need to install them.   The polar alignment is underway and is proving to be a real challenge.  Students are also working to model and 3D print a laser pointer to be aligned with the scope.

The observatory works in many ways.  I hope to will never be truly finished because of the opportunities it provides.

For photos of students building the foundation for the observatory, click here.


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