If you look out at the night sky from Mercer’s campus, you may be able to see some of the major constellations among a few of the brightest stars.
But the naked eye can only see so far. Even with a telescope, the stars can be difficult to see and track in Macon due to light pollution. Mercer’s close proximity to downtown doesn’t help.
So astronomy and physics professor Matt Marone is planning to build an observatory for Mercer students and the community.
“It’s not just a Mercer thing; it’s more of a Middle Georgia thing,” he said.
The stargazing setup would be located 20 miles from campus in Crawford County. Macon Water Authority will be leasing 125 acres of land for the observatory to Mercer.
Marone said that the building is still in its design phase. Plans include a classroom for both astronomy classes and classes to teach people how to operate the observatory equipment. It will also contain a room for students and professors to stay at the observatory overnight during research.
Some of the observatory equipment has already been acquired and will be moved to the observatory when it is eventually built. There will also be a control room on Mercer’s campus that can control the observatory telescope, so students can still use the equipment without having to leave campus.
Once the observatory is complete, Marone said, there will be many chances for people to get involved. Astronomy students and members of the astronomy club are first in line for stargazing and research in the observatory, but access is not only limited to these people.
Marone said that there will be many programs offered by the observatory for both Mercer students and the surrounding community, opening it up for middle Georgia students, teachers and astronomers.