Students and faculty await new telescopes
Alexandra de Armas
North Campus adjunct professor Juan Carlos Catala describes teaching his astronomy class as challenging, without the means to show students real images of the planets and galaxies he so enthusiastically describes.
Instead, he exhibits photographs from the Internet.
Catala compares teaching astronomy without telescopes, to teaching art without pictures of the artwork.
“Because I can’t show my students what I am teaching about, all I can do is talk to them about different occurrences that happen in space, and describe them,” Catala said. “Don’t you get the feeling they are missing something or being cheated?”
But that will soon change. This May, two, 500-pound Meade Max Mount LX400-ACF telescopes with 20-inch lenses will arrive at the North Campus’ rooftop observatory of the science complex.
The new telescopes will have built in GPS systems and cameras that allow images to be captured and will be available for use by students. The telescopes, which cost approximately $25,000 each, were funded by grants.
Dr. Michael M. Boulos, chairperson of chemistry, physics and the earth sciences department at the North Campus said that the telescopes will bring events to the North Campus when meteor showers and lunar eclipses occur.
“Our new telescopes will allow us to see something like that as it happens, but we will also have those images live or recorded in any classroom on campus,” Boulos said. “It is our intent to have events [that are] open to the community because there are no other opportunities like this for the community nearby.”
The telescopes will be available for student taking meteorology, chemistry, astronomy and earth science courses.
For now, astronomy classes are taught primarily in “a descriptive manner,” says Catala, who is using all the mediums he can to convey his passion for the galaxies.
“Believe me, there’s nothing like seeing [space] with your own eyes,” Catala said. “I can tell you about Jupiter, but if you see it, you will remember it.”
Pre-law student Kelley Baptiste, who is currently taking professor Smith Alton’s astronomy class, said the telescopes would be a welcome addition. His class currently uses power points, videos and a textbook that was published in 2006.
“It is very difficult to grasp the information the teacher is teaching because the images are of past occurrences,” Baptiste said. “Learning from a book that was published four years ago is very frustrating.”
Although Baptiste will not to have the opportunity to experience the telescopes, he expressed enthusiasm for their importance to students.
“I would be so excited to actually see the stars and how the earth rotates with my own eyes, and not from a book that just has images and a bunch of words,” Baptiste said.
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