Wonders in the Heavens
"He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south." (Job 6:9)
Soon, members of the Geneva College community will be able to enjoy God’s "vault of the sky" in a marvelous and intimate way. After years of planning and preparation, construction for the John Paul Schaefer Memorial Observatory is finally underway, with completion expected before the upcoming fall semester. And when finished, the observatory will provide valuable hands-on instruction to students, as well as new opportunities for the public to visit campus.
| Dr. John Stein introduces the Meade RCX400 telescope|
This new tool will enhance learning in astronomy courses; serve as a valuable resource for math, physics and engineering student projects; and be made available to a wide audience for observation sessions, lectures on astronomical topics of general interest and special events.
"The facility will be used for astronomical research—primarily for the detection of exoplanets, which are planets orbiting other stars, and for observations of comets and asteroids whose orbits bring them into the vicinity of the Earth, collectively known as near-earth objects or NEOs," explains Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy Dr. John Stein.
Along with retired Professor of Physics John Schaefer, whose father is the building's namesake, Dr. Stein has been involved with the project since 1995. The duo began with a temporary observatory, which was removed about five years ago, located next to Alumni Hall. Later joined in their efforts by Physical Plant Director Jeff Lydic and former physics professor Keith Willson, the group obtained a Meade RCX400 telescope and has now raised enough funds for construction and additional research instrumentation.
"With gifts from the estate of Professor Schaefer's father, gifts from alumni like Walter Zuberbuhler, some faculty contributions and a series of major gifts from the Extrasolar Planetary Foundation, we reached our goal last fall," says Dr. Stein.
Lydic acknowledges the contributions of the project's engineer, also. "Gene Mazza of Mazza Design developed the specific design to match our budget," he adds. "He stood with us as we presented the plans to the Beaver Falls Zoning Board and ensured we met building code requirements."
Once construction is finished, the facility will consist of an observatory building with a traditional 10-foot diameter dome, along with a control shed to house computers and electrical and Internet hubs, and provide storage for portable telescopes.
"I was very glad to help bring these professors' dream into reality," says Lydic.