Geology & Astronomy
The Department of Geology & Astronomy offers several courses in astronomy ranging from general education classes to more advanced classes for the astronomy minor. Students from all disciplines enjoy our astronomy classes, whether they are fulfilling their general education science requirement, completing part of their major program of study, or because they’re interested in learning how to use a telescope. The suite of astronomy courses includes:
ESS 111 Planets & Stars
ESS 112 Galaxies & Cosmology
ESS 311 General Astronomy
ESS 307 Geology of the Solar System
ESS 355 Intermediate Astronomy
ESS 362 History of Astronomy
A more detailed description of all of our courses can be found in the undergraduate catalogue. While there is no major in astronomy, the department offers a minor in the subject. A list of the requirements to complete a minor in astronomy can be found here.
The College of Arts and Sciences maintains an astronomical observatory on the roof of the Schmucker Science Center which is overseen jointly by the departments of Physics and Geology & Astronomy. The main instrument is an 10-inch Meade reflecting telescope. The observatory has two SBIG CCD cameras and an SBIG stellar spectrograph. The telescope system can be used for basic observing, astrophotography, photometry, and spectroscopy. The observatory is used as an astronomical laboratory for astronomy courses and as a research area for independent study research projects.
In addition to the permanently mounted telescope, there is also a suite of portable telescopes: seven 8” Dobsonian telescopes, three 8” Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, and a 14” Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.
The Observatory is not a public space open to visitation, however the WCU Astronomy Club offers numerous public events throughout the school year featuring telescopic equipment for all to enjoy. For more information, please visit the WCU Astronomy Club website.
The Department of Geology and Astronomy operates the University Planetarium which houses a Spitz A-5 planetarium projector. The planetarium is used for astronomy class lectures and labs as well as for K-12 school and public programs. Approximately 30 schools and other groups attend the programs each year, and annual attendance approaches 3,000. Shows for private groups (schools, retirement communities, mom’s clubs, etc.) are offered twice a week in the mornings during the fall and spring semesters. Monthly evening shows are also offered for the general public. The shows consist of an overview of what is currently visible in the night sky. In addition to this, each show includes a short presentation with a special focus on some aspect of astronomy, the topic of which changes each month.