Eye on the Sky

Sitting high in the center dome of the F.W. Olin Physical Sciences Building is the 0.8-meter (32-inch) Ortega Telescope, the largest research telescope in Florida. Faculty and students train this eye on the sky to see black holes whose masses can reach billions of times that of the sun, globular clusters, whirlpool galaxies and hot gassy nebulae. Researchers also study binary and multiple star systems, the decline of stellar activity and more. The telescope is equipped with a large-format CCD imaging system and a spectrograph, so you can see what the stars are actually made of. A sophisticated imaging camera—opening the big eye even wider— is now being tested on the Ortega Telescope. The technology can help astronomers spot very faint objects near to very bright objects—planets around other stars, for example. On clear evenings, stargazers venture onto the roof, first to see the amazing sunset, then to peer through the night sky at the stars through small, high-quality telescopes. What an awesome sight.