The University of Maine has awarded Oceanside Photo & Telescope (OPT) in Southern California a $175,000 consulting contract that includes the installation of an Ash dome and astronomy equipment, scheduled for completion next summer. The project is part of a $5.2 million plan for building a new, combined planetarium and observatory at the university, which currently houses a historic, though outdated 100-year-old telescope.
Under OPT’s guidance, the new structure at the University of Maine will feature a 20-inch Planewave CDK Telescope, an Ascension German Equatorial Mount, a Lunt 60MM Double Stack Telescope as well as high-tech refractors, cameras and video recorders. The new equipment will allow students to access the telescopes remotely and download digital images of the stars.
OPT also launched this year the OPT Citizen Science Foundation to foster interest of young people in the fields of physics and astronomy through various research projects headed by professional astronomers.
“Telescope systems like these allow schools and universities to greatly expand their capabilities in the area of citizen science,” says Ralph Emerson, director of education and government sales for OPT. “Our nation needs to drastically increase the number of graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Astronomy plays a major role in generating excitement in these areas.”
For the Cranbrook project, OPT is recently applied the finishing touches on renovating the institute’s observatory, which dates back to the 1920s. The $205,000 contract includes the installation of a new Ash dome, a 20” Planewave telescope, a 100MM Lunt Solar scope and a 150MM Takahashi refractor.
At Maui College, OPT is installing six telescopes in its new Science Building and Observatory, designed for student use. The contract totals $520,000 in equipment and installation, which will soon be complete.
Adds OPT’s owner Craig Weatherwax: “We see citizen science as the next great threshold in our industry. What we used to call ‘amateur astronomy equipment’ has advanced over the years to the point where dedicated hobbyists and students can join with astronomy professionals in real science projects.”
Oceanside Photo & Telescope was founded in 1947 and remains Southern California’s largest retail suppliers telescopes and astronomy equipment. For the past eight years, it has hosted the popular Southern California Astronomy Exhibition, and has also three times (including this year) made the 500/5000 list of “fastest growing private companies in America” by Inc. Magazine.