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May 27, 2009

On the Bright Side: SUNY Oneonta to unveil state's largest optical telescope

ONEONTA _ Stargazers will have a chance to look billions of light years into ``deep space,'' when SUNY Oneonta unveils its new telescope Friday night, a college dean said Tuesday.

At a ``first light'' ceremony at 8:30 p.m., faculty and staff will show the largest optical telescope in the state, said Michael Merilan, dean of science and social science at the State University College at Oneonta.

For astronomy and astrophysics studies, a telescope is a critical piece of equipment, he said, and the acquisition is significant for SUNY Oneonta.

``It really represents a pivotal moment,'' said Merilan, observatory director at the college.

The college also has a 16-inch telescope and hosts regular public viewing sessions, generally on designated Wednesdays twice a month during the fall and spring terms, Merilan said.

With the new telescope, Merilan said, SUNY Oneonta and the University of Toledo are tied in having the largest optical telescope east of the Mississippi River open for regular public viewing sessions.

The event at the SUNY Oneonta College Observatory at the College Camp will begin at 8:30 p.m. Friday with remarks by Nancy Kleniewski, president of the State University College at Oneonta, F. Daniel Larkin, provost, Sunil Labroo, physics and astronomy department chairman, and Merilan.

The telescope will be unveiled at 8:50 p.m., and it will be available for observations of the sky from 9 to 11 p.m. The public is invited, and admission is free. In the event of inclement weather, the observation will be available Saturday or Sunday at the same times.

The college will also offer a free showing of its digital planetarium in room 19B of Science Building 1 on campus at 5:30, 6 and 6:30 p.m., for up to 28 visitors in each session.

The 40-inch telescope collects more than 1.5 times more light than New York's previous collegiate record holders _ a 32.25-inch telescope at Alfred University and a 32-inch telescope at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, according to a pamphlet about the equipment.

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