IPFW opens observatory for undergraduates, public

IPFW's Undergraduate Fun Observatory opened Friday, Oct. 21, 2016 on West Baker Drive, across St. Joe Road from IPFW's main campus.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) IPFW opened a new observatory that will be used by undergraduates and the public alike.

The university’s physics department on Friday opened its Undergraduate Fun Observatory along West Baker Drive, across St. Joe Road from IPFW’s main campus. The computer-controlled, 8-inch optical telescope will be used primarily for undergraduate research, but will also be available for the public to use.

“The UFO has all of the features of larger observatories such as a rotating dome that keeps the opening orientated the same direction as the telescope,” said Stephen Gillam, assistant professor of physics at IPFW. “Everything the telescope does is controlled from an on-site computer.”

Gillam, who worked in spacecraft navigation at NASA for 18 years, has been working on getting the observatory up and running since April 2015, the university said. He said among the challenges was integrating all of the components into a system able to collect the data efficiently.

The UFO can do just that, he said, and Gillam hopes the university’s undergraduates and the general public take advantage.

“We’ve been conducting research and planning community outreach events aimed at those who are interested in gaining a new perspective on the universe we live in,” said Gillam.

The $27,000 observatory was jointly funded by the IPFW Department of Physics, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Office of Academic Affairs.