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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Physics and astronomy department hosts first public Shattuck Observatory event since pandemic

Upper Valley community members and Dartmouth students attended the department’s first event in years.

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On Jan. 27, the physics and astronomy department hosted its first open event at Shattuck Observatory since the pandemic. The Observatory was filled with children, students and Upper Valley residents. 

Although cloudy weather prevented telescope use, visitors were still able to see a variety of telescopes and engage with a planetarium exhibit entitled “StarLab,” which projects an image of the night sky onto an inflatable dome above sitting visitors.

Physics professor Hans Mueller helped guide visitors using the telescope. He held up an iPad with a stargazing app, so visitors could picture what the night sky would look like. 

“I am so pleased that so many people came to see the telescope, fully knowing that it is cloudy today, and it is not going to be open to see anything, but just to see this,” Mueller said. 

Physics and astronomy academic support manager Alan Goldblatt said that the department was excited to be able to restart the event.

“The astronomy grad students [are] extremely excited,” Goldblatt said. 

Latin American studies professor Marcela Di Blasi and her husband, economics professor Treb Allen, came to see the exhibit with their three children. According to Di Blasi, the family enjoyed watching the ceiling open up with the telescope display to show how the building worked.

“I liked the part with the red lights,” Di Blasi’s daughter Dorothea said.

Libby Sax, who lives in Thetford, Vt., said she found out about the event by email. According to Saks, her two daughters love outer space and were excited to ask the professors and students questions.

Theodora Turebon, a third grader from Orford, N.H., said she enjoyed looking at telescopes, hearing about telescopes and getting a sticker. She was excited about the sticker but said she was more excited to go to the Class of 1953 Commons. 

Thirteen year old Vidhaan Jain, his sister Shreya and their parents also attended the event. According to her mother, Shreya’s teacher emailed her first grade class about the event, and her family was excited for the public reopening. Shreya was especially excited about “seeing the telescope.”

Dartmouth students also attended the event. For many, it was their first visit to Shattuck Observatory.

“I’ve seen the observatory on campus, even before being admitted, and I always wondered what it looked like from the inside,” Thor Lemke ’27 said. “So, for me, it’s interesting and fascinating to see the inside of the observatory, and how they’re going to look out in space.”

Tanya Wongsri ’25 attended the event with three of her friends. She said she loved the new experience and enjoyed watching the telescope open. 

Additionally, Jessica Jiang ’25 said she was excited about the ancient telescope and learning about how people from 100 years ago would have “analyzed the stars and made discoveries” with it. 

“It’s really cool to be a part of that Dartmouth experience, where the public gets to see all that the Dartmouth scientific community has to offer,” Jiang said.  

Julia Hill ’24 visited the observatory for the first time, even though she has walked by it almost every day. However, she said the public reopening was the impetus for her to finally be able to get inside. 

“It’s really awesome to see how much care they put into preserving the telescope and making sure they preserve the history of Dartmouth itself,” Hill said.