Inoperable observatory frustrates FAMU students, faculty

The observatory sits on top of Jones Hall.


Florida A&M University’s observatory atop Jones Hall is inoperable, and physics  students say they are being restricted in regard to their education.

“I am an aspiring astronomer,” said Michael Lynn, a physics major. “The absence of an observatory prevents me from fully experiencing the aspects of the field of study.

“Arguably, the most vital part of being an astronomer is actually looking out into the universe and having the means to do so.”

The university has not set aside funds to make the observatory operable, according to physics department faculty. It was never assembled after being installed in 2006, according to Bidhan Saha, chair of the physics department. He estimates it would cost $30,000 to get the observatory working.

Many celestial events have happened that the FAMU physics department has not been able to participate in. During the much-celebrated solar eclipse last year the department was not able to watch and study.

The next solar eclipse is expected to happen July 2, 2019, and it will be best witnessed from South America. However, it would be too expensive to take the students to South America to study the total solar eclipse.

Saha said, “The observatory is an essential component of the astronomic courses, and our students have been lacking for years. One time we had money for the project, but unfortunately that project is gone and we don’t have any money left from that aspect.

“We tried to get the money from the authority over here, sometimes yes and sometimes no. As a result, the students and the population of this community are missing the observatory very much,” he added. “Once in a lifetime events happen, and we can’t show our community or students. We hope the authority this time will put close attention so the students can get their respective share of lion heart learning.”

Not all students can learn from just listening. Some are visual learners and need to see what the professor is saying.

 However, for a field such as this the students need to be able to look into the sky and conduct research.

Saha said, “The physics department is the only Ph.D. generating department in the STEM field at FAMU.”

Ray O’Neal, associate professor, said, “We can’t do the physical laboratory work for the course because we don’t have an operating observatory. Everything is here, it just has to be integrated.”

O’Neal has provided three quotes from contractors twice within the past decade.