alert Rectangle 9 Rectangle 9 Rectangle 9 Rectangle 9 Group 4 email out facebook fax flickr grid instagram LINK linkedin location Group 47 Group 9 Group 9 Group 47 PHONE play Group 4 " Search twitter video face_white youtube
outside shot of observatory

10 years of inspiration

For the past 10 years, the Widener University Observatory has been a source of inspiration to students and community members throughout the Philadelphia region.

Astronomy and physics majors have used the observatory’s 16-inch computerized Meade Cassegrain reflecting telescope to peer into the depths of space to study planets, moons, and galaxies, while families have participated in public stargazing sessions as a way to instill a sense of wonder in their children.

“You cannot underestimate the impact the first look through a telescope has on a person,” mused Dr. Harry Augensen, director of the Widener Observatory.

Augensen added that, unlike at larger universities, Widener’s relatively small size allows faculty at the observatory to work one-on-one with just about every student. He said in many cases students can also visit the National Research Observatory, a shared research site in Flagstaff, Arizona.

“Experiential learning is a big a part of Widener, and at least three of our former students are now professional astronomers,” noted Augensen.

Events are held at the observatory throughout the year and include dedicated teacher nights and even a “stars and s’mores” event for Widener students in June. The observatory also holds weekly stargazing sessions to give the public a view of the sky they may have never seen before.

It was at one of these public events two years ago that physics major Bridget Jennings visited the observatory with her mother. The Folsom, Pennsylvania resident said the experience helped her to eventually choose Widener.

Jennings added that her many visits to the observatory ignited her passion for the sciences and she hopes it will do the same for others in the years to come.

“Instead of being unattainable, it gives a first-person view of what you can do with a science or astronomy degree,” said Jennings.

Kay Rainford and her husband Peter agree. The Ridley Park, Pennsylvania residents said the observatory has been a great opportunity for their children, 9-year-old Luther and 7-year-old Erica, to see “science in action.”

“The staff is just wonderful because they really take the time to stop and discuss things with the kids,” said Kay Rainford, who has been visiting the observatory with her family for over seven years. “I think Widener is providing a great service to the community.”

Widener celebrated the observatory’s 10-year milestone with a special stargazing event Feb. 20. The observatory is located in Kirkbride Hall on Widener's Chester campus.