Star Search

Humankind has contemplated the night sky for centuries, looking to the stars for a pattern, an inspiration, an answer. Members of the Gambier community now have a better view of the stars thanks to the relocation of the Franklin Miller Observatory, an astronomical observation facility located half a mile west of Gambier.

The observatory was moved to the Brown Family Environ-mental Center due to the construction of Kenyon's new Center for Fitness, Recreation, and Athletics. The new site is more isolated, less subject to light pollution, and at a higher altitude than the previous location, where viewers were more likely to encounter obstructed views because of mists rising from the Kokosing River.

Kenyon students use the observatory, perched atop a hill just north of Route 229, to fulfill the lab requirement of their astronomy courses. Other students use it to complete research projects. "Astronomy is an accessible, popular entry point into the physical sciences," says Paula Turner, associate professor of physics and director of the observatory. She also notes that study of the stars is one of the seven classical liberal arts.

"An observatory is a double boon. It's a hands-on learning tool for those studying astronomy, because it gives them a chance to see how astronomical knowledge is generated, but it's also an excellent science outreach facility. It brings visitors who are curious about stars, galaxies, planets, and cosmology," she says.

In addition to its new location, the observatory has benefited from upgrades to its equipment. The facility houses a fourteen-inch telescope on a computer-controlled mount, capable of electronic imaging and spectroscopy, and four eight-inch telescopes intended for general viewing.

Members of the Gambier community, school groups, and other community organizations are able to use the observatory free of charge. The observatory is named in honor of Professor of Physics Emeritus Franklin Miller, who lives in Gambier.