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Distance Learning | News

South Carolina To Give Students Statewide Remote Access to Telescope

Beginning August 16, every classroom in South Carolina will be able to view the rings of Saturn or the Orion Nebula via a vintage telescope at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, SC.

The 1926 Alvan Clark 12 3/8-inch refracting telescope, built in 1926 and housed for 70 years at the Rutherfurd Observatory at Columbia University in New York, will be part of a 75,000-square-foot expansion and renovation project at the museum that opens August 16.
Beginning August 16, every classroom in South Carolina will be able to view the rings of Saturn or the Orion Nebula via a vintage telescope at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, SC.

Students all over the state will be able to control the telescope and connect through real-time distance learning with museum astronomy staff directly from their classrooms. A grant from Boeing South Carolina also is providing funding to train teachers to operate the telescope from each of their own schools.

According to state museum officials, this will be the first time in the United States that students from throughout an entire state will have direct access to a vintage telescope.

"Our goal is to help bridge the education access gap across South Carolina by delivering STEM resources directly into classrooms," said museum Executive Director Willie Calloway."This will revolutionize the way in which educators can integrate astronomy into their teaching."

Despite the fact the Clark telescope is more than 80 years old, it has a new computer control system that allows it to point at celestial objects quickly and accurately. A solar telescope, as well as an imaging camera for more distant objects, is mounted to the Clark telescope to provide more viewing options and access. The observatory also features an outdoor viewing terrace and a classroom, which will serve as a space for onsite student and teacher instruction.

The newly expanded portion of the museum, to be called "Windows to New Worlds," is part of a statewide initiative to enhance its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) distance-learning initiative. The museum now will also include a new planetarium and a 4D theater.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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