Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 32
TONY MADDEN / FERNBANK SCIENCE CENTER, 2017
VALDOSTA DAILY TIMES
The planetarium at Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta can seat 500 people under its
dark skies in Georgia: Hard Labor
Creek Observatory in Rutledge.
"We use the observatory for student training and astronomical research, but we also hold public open
houses once a month," Bentz says.
Visitors can observe the heavens from three permanent-mounted
telescopes, which are 24 inches, 20
inches and 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Professors and students also set
up six or seven portable telescopes
on the lawn for viewing.
"Astronomy is a low-barrier hobby. It doesn't take much money or effort to get started," Bentz says.
You can download a star chart
from the internet for your area and
season and head out to the backyard.
Start by looking at the moon, and
then locating planets, such as Venus,
Jupiter and Mars.
"Families can see [the constellation] Orion with its reddish star, Betelgeuse, and bluish Rigel with the
naked eye or a good pair of binoculars. From there, you can teach your
kids something about star science,
patterns or mythology," Bentz says.
Books, magazines, star charts,
smartphone apps and local astronomy clubs ease the way to learning
about the universe. Camping at some
of Georgia's state parks (such as Stephen C. Foster in Fargo, Hard Labor
Creek in Rutledge, High Falls in Jackson, Red Top Mountain in Acworth,
F.D. Roosevelt in Pine Mountain or
Providence Canyon Outdoor Recreation Area in Lumpkin) can provide
"It's a good thing to be pulled
outside yourself," Bentz says, "and to
realize that you are just a small part of
something much larger. It's beautiful
and quiet to be outside at night-to
get away from your screens and just
be a part of nature."
Freelance writer Laura Raines
lives in Mableton and is a member of
GreyStone Power Corp.
ideal vantage point to
see the stars, but VSU
is a charter member of
the Southeastern Association for Research in
Astronomy (SARA), a
consortium of 13 universities that operate
(remotely by computer) a 36-inch telescope
at Kitt Peak National
Observatory in Arizona and a 24-inch telescope in Chile.
Fourth-graders from St. John the Evangelist School in Valdosta
visit the Valdosta State University Planetarium. The planetarigalaxies with black
um hosts about 5,000 visitors a year.
holes, while colleagues
study asteroids and the
university with an undergraduate as- spectrum of low-temperature stars.
tronomy major, in which 20 students
"There is no shortage of things to
study in the universe. Astronomy is
The university has a 47-seat, 24- a difficult major, filled with advanced
foot dome planetarium with a Digi- math and physics courses, but you
tarium-Kappa digital projector and don't have to major in it to enjoy it,"
an observatory. It is mostly a teach- Rumstay says. "Amateur astronomy is
ing and faculty research facility, "but booming, the equipment is improving
we consider public outreach a part of and new discoveries are being made
our mission, and we host about 5,000 all the time."
schoolchildren and visitors a year,"
"Amateur astronomers do conDirector Kenneth S. Rumstay says. tribute to the science by their ob"We are open to the public free of servations and making meaningful
charge six nights a year. If the weath- measurements," says Misty Bentz, aser is clear, our rooftop observatory is sociate professor of physics and asopen after each show.
tronomy at Georgia State University
"In the planetarium, we can sim- (GSU) in Atlanta. GSU owns and opulate the sky's appearance as seen erates one of the best places to find
from surfaces of over 100 solar-system bodies, at any time in history."
See page 32A in the digital edition of this month's issue at georgiamagazine.
It's more challenging in the oborg to find a facility where you can view the cosmos or to get some tips on
servatory. With its high humidity and
getting started in amateur astronomy.
light pollution, Valdosta is not an
More online at www.georgiamagazine.org