Astrophysics Lab Gets New Equipment

Five telescopes, along with specialized computers, arrived in 2007

Roanoke College students are now one step closer to understanding the great expanse of sky that  surrounds us. New equipment for the College's astrophysics lab came between January and May of 2007 and is available, but not limited, to physics students, URAP researchers and astronomy club members.

"The equipment includes three six-inch and two 12-inch reflecting telescopes, three Dell work stations and one data server, and it serves a dual purpose - image processing and data analysis," says Dr. Matthew Fleenor, physics professor and advisor to the astronomy club. The computers store data and examine the activity of space objects. They offer a visual that is three-dimensional and allows for image filtering.

"Galaxies are not just sitting out there, but doing something dynamic, and data analysis tries to understand the dynamics of these objects," says Fleenor. The astrophysics lab's new equipment processes data and images taken by large and specialized telescopes from places like Australia, Chile, Arizona, the University of Virginia, Lynchburg College and Roanoke County's Bent Mountain.

The five new telescopes that the lab obtained are used primarily to introduce Roanoke College students to our galaxy. "It's there for students to become better acquainted with the sky, the way it moves and the things that we might see," Fleenor says. The telescopes offer a view of objects in the Earth's galaxy such as star clusters, nebulae, planets and comets.

"The equipment is essential to the work of involving students in meaningful astronomical research. We needed it, and the College provided," Fleenor says about the lab's a research purpose and dimension to the space observation that students do. During the summer of 2007, physics major Ivanka Barzashka '08 conducted a research project using the lab's new instruments.

The new equipment was purchase with the contributions of a private donor and the College's physics department.

"We want to spread knowledge through research projects and presentations like Ivanka's in order for people to appreciate the world that we live in," says Fleenor. "The goal of the astrophysics lab is to raise campus awareness concerning the vast and awe-inspiring nature of the universe."

Shena Sanchez

About the Author

Shena Sanchez is a 2008 graduate in English from Virginia. She was a student writer in the College's PR office and was very active on campus in several organizations, including Alpha Sigma Alpha and InterVaristy Christian Fellowship.

Related Stories