Smolen Observatory Under Construction
The new Smolen Observatory is due for October completion. Built as a bequest from Muriel Smolen, in honor of her husband, Jack Smolen, the Smolen Observatory will serve New Paltz students for years to come. Jack Smolen was an avid amateur astronomer, and his gift will pass that enthusiasm on to future generations.
The campus is taking advantage of the Smolen Observatory to launch a new program in Astronomy. Pending final approval, New Paltz will offer a liberal arts degree in astronomy, with an emphasis on practical skills, e.g., operating a planetarium and/or an observatory.
The new observatory is a sturdy shed with a slide-off roof. Inside will be a telescope permanently mounted on a pedestal. Additional telescopes can be stored, and used on specially-built stands outside the structure. A wireless data-link will eventually allow for automated data collection from other instruments.
The Smolen Observatory is located adjacent to the soccer fields just south of Esopus Hall – a site chosen because it is the darkest place on campus. The best observing weather is on cold, clear, moonless winter nights. Since heat creates interfering convection currents, the building is not heated. Serious astronomers will need to bundle up. But we hope to use the observatory even under less optimal conditions, such as warm, summer evenings.
When not used for classes, the observatory will be available to the public.