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Mendenhall Observatory in Stillwater, Oklahoma

OSU Department of Physics aims to resurrect Mendenhall Observatory

Monday, November 21, 2022

Media Contact: Elizabeth Gosney | CAS Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-7497 | egosney@okstate.edu

The Department of Physics is raising funds to restore Oklahoma State University’s Mendenhall Observatory, which is currently nonoperational and requires updating the telescope control system. 

Located just southwest of OSU’s Stillwater campus, the observatory houses the largest telescope in the state, a 24-inch diameter Ritchey-Chrétien optical telescope. Built in 2001, the Mendenhall Observatory is named for Dr. Harrison Shepler Mendenhall, OSU's first astronomer and professor of mathematics and astronomy.

Ritchey-Chretien optical telescope
The Mendenhall Observatory houses this 24-inch diameter Ritchey-Chrétien optical telescope

Dr. Kim Zoldak, a teaching assistant professor and observatory manager in the physics department, said restoring the observatory would allow remote control of the telescope, meaning it could be operated from off-site. 

“I got to run a telescope myself as an undergrad student, and it fueled my passion for astronomy,” Zoldak said. “The Mendenhall Observatory offers a unique opportunity for our students and local community members interested in observing the universe at their own hands. They can say, ‘Hey, I took this image myself. I ran this telescope. I set up the observations, and this was all me.’’’

Zoldak explained that many people contact her about touring the observatory or getting Boy Scout merit badges there. She would like to offer those opportunities again once the telescope is repaired, including the chance to have local high school and middle school students experience the observatory.

Wes Cash, who works in OSU’s Physics and Chemistry Instrument Shop, will help restore the observatory and guide students and faculty in its use.

“The observatory will benefit OSU by getting more students interested in the sciences and by forging a better bond with people and the community outside of OSU,” Cash said. “Most scientists had their first interest in science sparked by astronomy or looking through a telescope for the first time. Astronomy is something people can enjoy and appreciate their entire life.”

The Mendenhall Observatroy restoration should be completed by the end of April. To help the Department of Physics reach their $10,000 fundraising goal, visit the observatory's PhilanthroPete site. 

Story By: Kelli Leech, CAS graduate assistant | kelli.leech@okstate.edu

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