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Shepherd Observatory

What is the James Wylie Shepherd Observatory?

The James Wylie Shepherd Observatory will provide an informal setting for members of the extended university community to increase their understanding of science, mathematics and technology through presentations on the history and development of astronomy combined with telescopic observation. By stressing the historical interactions between astronomy and other sciences and human endeavors, an appreciation of true interdisciplinarity and the interconnectedness of knowledge will be fostered. By providing regular observatory access and frequent educational programs and presentations, the project will create bridges between the University, regional teachers, Middle and High school students, their parents, and members of the community.

Why Now?

There is a desperate need for increased public understanding of mathematics and science. As technology marches on, the populace must be literate in these areas in order to meet the minimal requirements of self-governance. Elected officials constantly ballyhoo the need for America to “catch up” in mathematics and science. Observational astronomy provides a superb conduit toward accomplishing that goal, by instilling a sense of wonder and excitement, and a desire to learn more. Whether it is a lunar crater, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, or the rings of Saturn, everyone gasps upon looking through a good telescope for the first time. And then the questions start. Once people start thinking and wondering about astronomy, they will be led deeper and deeper into mathematics and science and, with guidance, they will become lifelong learners and better citizens. The James Wylie Shepherd Observatory will be a state-of-the-art observatory on the campus of the University of Montevallo and offer University classes, K-12 programs coordinated through AMSTI, professional research opportunities and free public viewings and lectures to the end of increasing the level of interest in the world around us and beyond.

How Much Will It Cost?

The JWS Observatory is within reach. We can have the state-of-the-art 20 inch remotely controllable telescope installed and housed in a computerized domed observatory for $100,000. For all the features we would like to have at the Observing Complex, the ten-year plan calls for significantly more money. We have several significant donors on board already, and we are submitting a variety of NSF grant proposals.

How Can I Learn More?

Here are informational fliers about our dome, our telescope, and our project.