September 25, 2020

Cayman Islands College observatory continues to reach for the stars


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hrudey_lgSince its opening in February 2012, the UCCI Observatory has been an active site on campus. Hundreds of school students, from pre-K to seniors, have toured the Observatory and been impressed with images taken through the various telescopes. A number of service Clubs have also visited in addition to guests of the University from off-Island. Finally, a small number of Faculty have also come by and shown interest.

The Director, Dr. Wm. (Bill) Hrudey, is on site almost on a daily basis capturing solar images in the Hydrogen alpha band with the Lunt 60 double stacked solar scope. This telescope is specifically designed for solar observations and captures many of the impressive details on our very dynamic sun. In the last year, two of the largest sunspots on record have been imaged and, are included in the massive library of solar images.

Though many ask, “Is it the biggest telescope in the Caribbean?”, the answer is no. However, it is one of the most sophisticated collection of computerized and imaging equipped facility capable of research level activities.

The night sky has not been neglected and, a number of lunar and planetary images follow. Since a “picture is worth a thousand words”, images rather than words will speak for themselves.

A number of outreach programs have been instituted in collaboration with Chris Cooke of the Cayman Islands Astronomical Society. Several 6 week courses on the basics of astronomy introduced students to the wonders of the universe. An Amateur Telescope Making course was given by Bill Hrudey and six students assembled their own 6 inch functioning Dobsonian reflector telescopes. In January 2015, the Observatory will be providing an intensive hands-on course on Astrophotography over a period of six to eight weeks. This course will cover all the basics of astrophotography including image processing — an essential component of astro imaging.

The addition of an Observatory to the UCCI Campus was intended to introduce and promote Science programs. This also evolved into the very successful STEM Conferences over the past two years. The next STEM Conference is slated for March 17 to 20 and will include a number of off-Island experts. We were fortunate in obtaining, as keynote speaker, Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi who is regularly seen on National Geographic and Science channels. His story will be an inspiration to Cayman’s youth.

In November 2014, Bill Hrudey purchased his latest personal instrument, a 115 mm APO Triplet Refractor complete with heavy duty computerized GOTO mount and Autoguiding scope. This state of the art instrument will add the capability of white light solar imaging as well as long exposure deep sky imaging. An example of a deep sky image taken by Isa Mohammed of Trinidad will be a goal to strive for.

Has all this been worthwhile? A resounding “Yes” is the answer as the UCCI Observatory ranks amongst one of the most active in the Caribbean and opens the door to science on a larger scale in the Cayman Islands.

Bill welcomes interested visitors and will provide guided tours and demonstrations of some of the equipment and software. Feel free to contact him at [email protected] or 327-1892

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