UNA making repairs to planetarium and observatory

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FLORENCE, Ala. — The stars have a story to tell, but for the University of North Alabama, those pages haven’t turned since 2017. That’s the last time the school’s observatory was in use. The planetarium, however, is still in use for classes.

“So, we’re currently renovating the observatory for the planetarium,” said Michael Gautney, UNA Assistant VP for Facilities. “Over the years we’ve had issues with concrete fracturing the support for the dome.”

For more than fifty years, the planetarium and observatory have hosted a variety of stellar events like meteor shower viewings and the 2017 solar eclipse.

The observatory isn’t just used for stargazing and entertainment. The information learned there is used for research.

“We can learn about how stars evolve and change by simply watching what they’re going to do, and so we can measure their brightness versus time, we can break the light up into its colors, what we call a spectrum,” said Mel Blake, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Earth Science.

The university has the equipment to do that research, however, the observatory repairs must be completed before they continue. The more than $125,000 project is expected to be completed by the first of the year. By then future generations of students and scientists can continue to shoot for the stars.

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