BY RENEE BUCKLEY
FRONT PAGE EDITOR
Friday, March 9, marked a first light for the new Mary Reagan one meter telescope and observatory, donated at the College of the Desert, Mecca/ Thermal campus. The Firstlight is a common event in the world of astronomy when a new telescope is opened and celebrated.
The telescope is handled remotely, meaning you do not have to go to the Mecca/ Thermal campus to view it, but capture as you would if you were there in real time. The telescope is often used during both astronomy lab and lecture, bringing Dr. ElShafie to say, “The telescope is bringing the universe into the hands of COD students.”
The telescope has been able to capture pictures of the Spindle Galaxy, 50 million light years away, and the Crab Nebula 6,523 light years away. Being able to have access to this will help COD to engage its students and entices them to join the field as we partner with universities, national and international research institutions.
More than 130 people attended the event including, Dr. Kinnamon, Board of Trustees members, and Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, who was the guest speaker. In his speech, he discussed what an amazing thing it is to have this opportunity for these students, and how because of it, College of Desert students could become NASA’s elite.
The observatory was donated in order to help astronomy, science, and STEM students to further their education, and both discover and pursue a passion. Though the First Light did face difficulty with the weather Friday night, being so cloudy it made it impossible to view anything in the night sky. COD student Mitchell Sanchez stated, “I was really excited to assist Dr. Elshafie with the First Light/Star Party, though due to the cloudy conditions, we could not see anything, which was kind of a disappointment.”
Instead, the group presented a powerpoint on what had been observed, as well as offered small group tours of the observatory. The observatory is to be used for teaching and learning of what you can view and discover, and is looking to allow access to the K-12 community by planning events that include them, and hopefully engaging in the world of astronomy.
The observatory dome can be seen at the COD Mecca campus located at 61-120 Buchanan St. in Thermal.