The Maneater

Laws Observatory holds ‘Stars and Planets’ exhibition, part of MU Homecoming celebration

The dome and museum opened for observation to educate the public about physics and astronomy.

Laws Observatory opened from 7:30 to 10 p.m. on Friday as part of MU’s Homecoming celebration. The event provided an opportunity for the public to observe the moon, the surrounding planets and the stars through the telescope. Spectators could also learn more about the correlation between mass spectrometry and the universe.

The observatory is run by the MU Student Astronomical Society, which is instructed by Angela Speck, director of MU Astronomy. It opens every Wednesday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (weather permitting), except holidays, according to the MU Department of Physics and Astronomy’s website.

Erica Dykes is a senior studying physics with an emphasis in astronomy and is vice president of MU Student Astronomical Society. What fascinates her about astronomy is knowing how nature is able to create these objects, and how they last millions of years longer than humans do.

“They are so far away but so beautiful,” Dykes said.

She said the purpose of Friday’s event was to raise public awareness about astronomy. “You don’t have to be a fancy astronomer in order to look up at the stars and learn about it,” Dykes said. “We want to spark the interest for all generations who might not have a chance to look up and observe the universe beforehand.”

Dawson Black, a 13-year-old Columbia native, visited the observatory with his mom, who found out about the event earlier from the observatory’s facebook page.

Black said he sparked his interest in astronomy in fifth grade when he first learned how the universe works. He was interested in the mass spectrometry station as well as the dome where he was able to observe the surface of the moon through the telescope.

“It was pretty cool,” Black said. “I like how you can see all the craters and everything on the moon. I will totally come back in the future.”

Student volunteer Sean Murray was in charge of the mass spectrometry display station. Participants were able to observe the majestic color patterns under different light sources through special filtered glasses.

Murray served in the Marine Corps before returning back to university to finish his undergraduate study. Although majoring in mechanical engineering, Murray is a self-proclaimed space freak. “I love anything associated with space or even connecting with people and talk to them about astronomy, just anything related to that is awesome,” Murray said.

Murray has volunteered at several events hosted by the observatory including the annual Haunted Observatory, which will be on Oct. 30 this year.

The Haunted Observatory is a Halloween themed event featuring famous astronomers as well as Albus Dumbledore from “Harry Potter” to teach young children and adults who are interested in astronomy more about the milestones and key characters of the field. Candy and other Halloween themed treats will also be offered.

“The Haunted Observatory is always a lot of fun,” Murray said. “It may not sound like it, but a lot of people come through and we [volunteers] all dress up as various characters.”

Murray said he was Isaac Newton last year, with other volunteers dressed as other astronomers like Galileo, Henrietta Swan Leavitt and Annie Jump Cannon.

Dykes said the viewings will lessen as the weather gets colder due to costly to install air conditioning and heating inside the dome.

Edited by Morgan Smith | mosmith@themaneater.com

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