BY DORIAN ROMERO
College of the Desert (COD) will be one of the few community colleges in California to have its own observatory.
On Sept. 14, local resident Ivoj Kudrnac donated his telescope to the college. Kudrnac looked at different colleges who could benefit from his telescope and ultimately chose COD because of its location and the quick reply from college administration.
The telescope is a Planewave Instruments CDK17 (17”) Astrograph telescope, Bisque Paramount MEII software, and a Finger Lakes Instruments Microcline one-shot color air-cooled camera.
COD’s Math and Science Interim Dean Karen Tabor believes this observatory is going to be an incredible asset to the area. “This will expose science and astronomy to a section of the population that would not otherwise have ready access to these kinds of facilities.” said Tabor.
The observatory is reportedly being constructed about two miles east of the COD Mecca/Thermal campus because Mecca avoids big city light pollution and has dark skies. Mecca also has about 348 cloudless and dry nights, which are ideal for astronomy research. The east valley college campus is located at 61120 Buchanan St., Thermal, CA, 92274. The complex will be close to the foothills.
Science professors at COD hope the observatory will provide students, staff and the public with the latest and most advanced technology for education on astronomy and science. The facility will be used to offer astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, computer programming and engineering courses.
Visitors will be able to search the sky for stars, planets and galaxies and be able to see the deep sky objects that are not visible to the naked eye. Some projects that are planned to happen at the observatory include:
- Engineering projects to improve and maintain the observatory’s functions.
- Telescope projects to learn how to use and work on telescopes.
- Computer programming projects code optimization, scripting and creating interfaces related to astronomical computing.
- Salton Sea projects support research for the preservation of this vital ecosystem and the protection of wildlife dependent on it.
Astronomers, astrophysicists, biologists, chemists, ecologists and researchers will be invited to use the facility for their research where COD students and staff will have the chance to interact with them. No timeline for completion has been set.