Observatory

he night skies in these northeast Georgia Mountains are the delight of star-gazers.
The dream of an observatory sprang from a desire to better serve the students of Young Harris College and the surrounding communities, and such dream became a reality in 2002. Young Harris College now houses the third largest Planetarium in Georgia and how hosts over 10,000 stargazers annually. They now are even better able to take advantage of the telescopes and the unobstructed night skies through the creation of this permanent observatory and make the heavens a place of growing interest for all.

The Observatory features a 16-inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope housed in a 15-foot dome and approximately five portable telescopes, including two 8-inch Schmidt Cassegrain models that are placed on permanent, outside viewing piers.

What could possibly be done to improve on this “stellar” facility? How about installing the world’s first GOTO CHRONOS starball. In 2002, the new projector was installed and has improved the quality of the star field and increased functionality while providing enhanced system automation and a more user-friendly set up.

The biggest difference between the 22-year-old Spitz 512 and the new GOTO CHRONOS is the quality of the star field. The Spitz 512 displayed about 2800 stars using a pinhole projection system. The new projector creates 8500 stars by using fiberoptic and advanced optical imaging technology, allowing a much greater range in brightness and producing a more realistic star field. Stars are also projected from both ends of the starball so there are no blank spots in the Southern Hemisphere caused by the projector blocking the starlight. The same fiberoptic technology produces bright nebulae, galaxies and clusters with a much more natural appearance. A combination of these effects creates a considerably more vibrant, realistic and accurate view of the night sky.

Two computers, allowing precise and easily reproducible motions and the ability to display multiple motions simultaneously, control the GOTO CHRONOS projector. Computer control also allows ease of shifting the planets and stars to reflect any time period—past, present or future—by simply typing a date into the computer. In addition, the GOTO CHRONOS allows the user to shift the viewing position to any location on Earth or in the solar system from the South Pole to the surface of Mars in under 20 seconds. The projector can portray the revolution of the planets around the sun as seen from a point above the solar system, or how the night sky would look from Mars or any other planet in the solar system. According to Dr. Kent Montgomery, “The GOTO CHRONOS star projection system has substantially increased the educational value of the planetarium star shows. More constellation figures can be projected on the dome, the Milky Way and the southern sky are better represented and complicated astronomical motions, like the analemma and retrograde loops, are more easily demonstrated.”

This new starball will strengthen and enhance the education of students while providing state-of-the-art planetarium shows and special effects for our students and the communities they serve.

On some cold Friday night, when the night sky is cloudy, step into the climate-controlled environment of the Rollins Planetarium and experience the next best thing! Guaranteed you will leave with stars in your eyes!

A weekly program is available to guests of Brasstown Valley Resort, and public star shows are presented on at least 30 Friday nights each year, weather permitting. Special programming includes tours for community organizations and the viewing of extraordinary events such as comets, eclipses and meteor showers. Observing sessions are after planetarium shows at 8 p.m. in the Rollins Planetarium on the Young Harris College campus. The Observatory will be closed on the same dates that the Planetarium is closed. To see a schedule of planetarium showings and dates, visit http://w3.yhc.edu/external/planet/sched.html


Directions from Young Harris College:
Leaving the campus turn right onto US 76, travel approximately one and a half miles to the entrance of Brasstown Valley Resort, turn right; travel up the hill, when the road comes back together and it is possible to make a U-turn, turn around and head back down the mountain a little ways to the scenic overlook and park there; then walk up the paved path to the Observatory.

       
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