6/14/2016 Chris Karlesky

Hidden F&M: Grundy Observatory

This magazine article is part of Spring 2016 / Issue 85
  • Grundy Observatory Image Credit: Matthew Lester

All is calm at F&M’s Baker Campus on a warm April evening. The baseball and softball teams have completed their practices on these fields a mile west of campus, and chirping birds provide the soundtrack of spring. More importantly for a group of F&M students, the sky is crystal clear—the perfect night for stargazing.

Inside the Joseph R. Grundy Observatory—a small brick structure along Baker’s southern border—the students prepare to welcome members of the community to their monthly open house. Richard Camuccio ’16 pushes a button to open the sliding roof, revealing a bright, waxing gibbous moon in the darkening sky. Jupiter, the gas giant a few hundred million miles from Earth, is visible to the right of the moon. Soon more than two-dozen people fill the room, each waiting to peer deep into the solar system.

Grundy has been the site of stargazing sessions since it opened in 1968 with a $100,000 gift from The Grundy Foundation. Home to an 11-inch German-made Clark-Repsold refractor telescope and a 16-inch Boller and Chivens Telescope, it supports astronomy classes and labs in addition to public viewing opportunities. But it wasn’t the College’s first observatory; that honor goes to the Scholl Observatory, which opened on campus in 1884 near the present site of the Hackman Physical Science Laboratories.

The observatory has been a special place for Camuccio, an astrophysics major leading an effort to breathe new life into the structure through a project he calls Grundy 2.0. “I’ve heard stories about lines of people waiting out the door back in the 1970s and 1980s,” says Camuccio, who will pursue a Ph.D. and hopes to become an astronaut.

Camuccio and the coalition of students he’s recruited have enhanced the building’s office space by adding wireless Internet, a small library and weather station. They soon hope to add computer stations to make the observatory more engaging for visitors.

“We’re all dedicated to the rebirth of this facility. We want more people to use this remarkable space.”

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