“A dream that became a reality and spread throughout the stars” –Captain Kirk, Star Trek
Man (and woman of course) has always been fascinated with the night sky. Its all-encompassing wonder has created many a mad scientist. Florida Tech has always embraced the space sciences and was the first university to offer the degree in space science and probably created a few of those mad scientists. It’s probably no surprise given Florida Tech’s commitment to providing high quality college tech toys. The Department of Physics and Space Sciences houses one of the crown jewels of college tech, the Ortega 0.8-m Telescope. Located on the building’s rooftop, the Olin Observatory is a stargazers dream. The Olin Observatory also houses 15 eight inch computer controlled telescopes available for student use. As well as being the largest research telescope in the south-east, the Ortega Telescope is part of a global network of telescopes that can all be operated simultaneously by Florida Tech researchers and students. This gives our students the exclusive opportunity to rapidly and accurately calculate the distances to hazardous (to Earth) asteroids and comet nuclei, and to observe other astronomical objects for up to 16 hours in one night! The state-of-the-art Ortega Telescope and the Olin Observatory allows students to get hands on research experience. So if you are into white dwarf stars, hypermassive black holes, extragalactic jets and cataclysmic variable systems, Florida Tech will blow your mind.
Even if you aren’t pursuing a career in space science and think a dwarf star was in the Wizard of Oz, there are plenty of opportunities to learn more about astronomy and the space sciences. The university sponsors public lectures every month as well as open observatory times. If lectures aren’t your thing, then maybe a Student Astronomical Society (SAS) star party on the beach is more up your alley? Catch pizza and a meteor shower. Share pictures, stories, telescopes or anything else related to astronomy. If you want an opportunity to play rocket scientist, join the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS). The Florida Tech chapter is working on a United Nations project to launch a suborbital payload on a Soyuz rocket on the 50th anniversary of Yuri’s Night on April 12th, 2011. Florida Tech’s proximity and relationship with the Kennedy Space Center provides students with unique opportunities not available to other universities. Nothing compares to watching a rocket take off in the night sky with the sand between your toes and the waves crashing in the background.