Mark Jacobs, Associate Professor of Physics, has been working for the last six months to rebuild the telescope in the NMU observatory, constructing a new mounting that will let the telescope follow the sky accurately so that it can be used to take photographs. After looking at commercially-available options, he decided to custom-design the equipment, enlisting the help of engineering technology instructor Cale Polkinghorn and physics student Amelia Shirtz to do the construction.
The plans called for the “equatorial wedge” mount to be rebuilt, raising the telescope approximately 7” and moving it closer the center of the observatory dome, so that an observer would have a better view of the night sky. And in order to take time-exposure photographs, it needed to be aligned with the sky’s motion to less than 1/10th of a degree of accuracy. This was no small task, as the telescope and its mount weigh 650 pounds!
Dr. Jacobs is now able to combine his passion for photography with astronomy by using a computer linked to the new telescope observatory located on top of the West Science building. In the future, Jacobs hopes to involve more students in projects. On cold days when the sky is clear you will find Dr. Jacobs in the NMU observatory dressed in a snowsuit gazing out to the stars.