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Observatory to be built at Shepherd University

October 19, 2005

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - An astronomical observatory that can be used by public school students in the area as well as Shepherd University students is being built at Shepherd University, the school announced Tuesday.

The observatory is being built on the roof of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies and is being funded in part by a grant from the West Virginia Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, according to a press release from the university.

Other funding is provided by Shepherd University and Dr. Raymond Smock, director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies.

The observatory, which will include a dome, telescope and other research equipment, will allow Shepherd to expand its teaching, research and outreach efforts in astronomy, said Jason Best, associate professor of astrophysics.

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Astrology is taught to Shepherd students as part of its general sciences curriculum, said Burt Lidgerding, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

The observatory also will be made available to local public schools, Lidgerding said.

That will be beneficial to schools like the planned second high school next to the Huntfield development which will have an emphasis on science education, Lidgerding said.

"Astronomical observatories represent the essence of humanity's ongoing quest for knowledge, our desire for discovery. We are pleased to have such a scientific facility at Shepherd and invite the campus community and public to share in the wonders of the universe with us," Best said.

"The opening of the observatory is a significant development in Shepherd's growth as a regional university. It will allow Shepherd to provide educational opportunities in astronomy to area schools and that is the type of opportunity a regional university should provide to the community," said Lidgerding.

Information about public astronomy open houses and other observatory events will be posted on the Shepherd University astronomy Web site, www.shepherd.edu/astronomy/.

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