News Release

Observatory to Bring New Worlds Closer

An M2 gift from alum Mark L. Shyman, M.A. ’08, helped purchase a telescope for a new observatory atop the Knight Physics Building.

Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – A new observatory will give College of Arts and Sciences students and amateur astronomers a better glimpse into our galaxy and beyond in the spring. Perched atop the Knight Physics Building, the new facility replaces the former Ungar observatory and features a state-of-the-art telescope to help students observe the cosmos firsthand.

The telescope will give students a much better view of bodies in space, and it features a large-format camera to take high-resolution images, said Professor Joshua Gundersen, chair of the Department of Physics. Its light-gathering power will help observers spot objects more than 1,000 times fainter than what we can see with the naked eye, and various filters can help reveal additional details.

The observatory and telescope will primarily be used for teaching undergraduates basic principles about astronomy, astrophysics, and math, Gundersen said. Students will use the telescope to gather original data that can be used throughout the curriculum, and data collection and analysis can help undergraduates across many majors improve science and technological literacy and bolster their critical thinking skills. While most research is conducted using much larger terrestrial telescopes or telescopes in space, Gundersen said the observatory could be used for preliminary research.

The observatory also will enable more of the community to explore science and space.

“This is primarily a teaching telescope, but I think people in the community will enjoy it,” he said. “It could help introduce children to space and science, and amateur astronomers in South Florida will be interested in using it.”

Bringing more future scientists to UM is a key motivator for Mark L. Shyman, M.A. ’08, whose Momentum2 gift helped to purchase the new equipment. Shyman, a businessman with a long-held curiosity about Isaac Newton and physics, grew interested in astronomy and the observatory in 2007 during a Survey of Physics course in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program.

“I really loved the class, but I realized that the equipment was out of date, so I made a commitment to myself about improving astronomy assets,” Shyman said. “Now, I think this telescope could attract students from all over the world to come to UM to study physics and astronomy.”

Shyman worked closely with Gundersen and physics faculty to make his commitment a reality. “I am very pleased with the effort, and I know this is going to be a beautiful resource,” Shyman said. “I hope it will motivate others to take a look around and see where they can contribute to the academic needs on campus.”