Christian DeWeese/The Mainstream
The observatory is located above the campus by the Tower Building.
Observatory allows students to view astronomical objects in real time
Most people think of their home as a house with a roof and some windows. But our home is really located in the Milky Way. The Paul Morgan Observatory, behind the UCC Technology Center, houses the state’s largest solar telescope in an unassuming 10 foot square building and is used to observe our cosmic neighborhood.
The observatory, named by students to honor UCC’s astronomy professor, opened in 2016 after the school received $100,000 in donations. The observatory presents real time images of extraterrestrial objects on large TV screens and in an online stream and is “designed to provide onsite and online viewings of the sun and night sky.” Scheduled tours are often held, but, due to the season, no events are slated until the spring. Short notice observing opportunities, however, are sometimes posted 24 to 48 hours in advance, according to UCC’s website.
Morgan teaches a four credit, online lab class “GS107 Beginning Astronomy” in the summer. Despite it being an online class, the course encourages students to visit the observatory throughout the period.
The Umpqua Astronomers club, however, hopes to channel an interest in space all year long. They meet and welcome new members every second Tuesday of the month. The club gets together to “discuss news, what’s new in astronomy, what’s up in the sky,” and, weather permitting, close the night with an observing session, according to the UA’s official site. The club also hosts moon observations on the last Friday of every month at the Paul Morgan observatory.
Students soon transferring out, who might be looking to major in astronomy, should note that few universities offer specific astronomy degrees, but many do offer physics programs that specialize in astronomy. Here in the state, both UO and OSU also offer courses, clubs and have observatories of their own.
The American Astronomical Society (AAS) notes that those fascinated by space can find work in careers in “intelligence research, education, and public information.” Recent graduates start off in postdoctoral research programs, where they might work for one to three years. It’s common for graduates to spend “three to six years in post doctoral positions” before finding a solid position in a “collegial department, national facility, or government lab.”
Following that, those who wish to continue and turn their love of questioning the universe into a full-time job will find themselves in a small, yet wide ranging field. With only 6,000 working in astronomy positions in North America, the AAS highlights the small community as a selling point; however, with a small turnover rate, there is competition for any position that opens.
Most astronomers, 55% of them, work as teachers at universities and colleges or are affiliated with them through observatories and labs. Even though teaching is the main activity of most astronomers, they spend large portions of their time researching. As members of physics departments, they conduct most of their research activity in the astronomy field. In terms of yearly income, it often depends on “school size, quality and competitiveness.” Assistant professors might see themselves making $50,000 for nine to 10 months, while senior professors might make twice as much, according to the AAS.
Another 10% of those in the field work for a private business, industry or are secondary school teachers. Some consulting firms even hire astronomers to do research for private companies. Others work as museum curators or as faculty in a planetarium. These jobs tend to require having a broad knowledge of astronomy as well as having skills in public communication.
For students interested in a career that reaches beyond the stars, the Umpqua Astronomers will be hosting their next meeting on Feb. 11 in Wayne Crooch, Room 10 scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and end at 8:45 p.m. Newcomers are encouraged to arrive 30 minutes early if they have any questions. Or, visit their website https://umpquaastronomers.org for further information.
To learn more about the Paul Morgan Observatory, visit https://www.umpqua.edu/observatory or call 541-440-4719 to learn more.
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