JOHNSON CITY (July 30, 2010) – From the beginning of time, humans have gazed at the daytime and nighttime skies with wonder and awe. As the centuries passed, simple stargazing evolved into the science of astronomy, with the technology of telescopes and the recorded knowledge base helping scientists to continually learn about celestial phenomena that can teach more about Earth and this solar system, and to predict phenomena, such as asteroids and solar storms, that could have consequences for humankind.
Now, students at East Tennessee State University have an opportunity to enjoy the in-depth study of this science through a new minor in Astronomy.
Offered by the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the minor was approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) this summer and will be implemented in the fall. ETSU is the second institution in the TBR system, after Austin Peay State University, to offer the Astronomy minor.
The department began to lay the groundwork for the minor program after survey results of students in astronomy, general and technical physics, and atomic and nuclear physics courses showed significant interest, and labor market evidence showed continuing demand for workers skilled in quantitative analysis and technology.
And, according to the department’s proposal, “Astronomy continues to be a subject of considerable popular interest, both in terms of the science as well as the inter-relations between science and culture and the arts.”
“The minor in Astronomy is established to complement and enhance the studies of students who major in the sciences, especially Physics,” ETSU President Dr. Paul E. Stanton Jr. said. “Additionally, the minor will have a positive benefit of assisting ETSU graduates’ applications to graduate programs in Astronomy, and the Astronomy faculty will be able to mentor students engaged in research with them.”
In addition to its benefit to students pursuing graduate study in the field, the proposal reads, the new minor “will complement or enhance the studies of students who major in the sciences other than Physics. . . . Non-Physics majors who minor in Astronomy will augment their analytical skills in a subject rich in mathematical and physical content, which can directly aid their career goals as well as satisfy their curiosity about the universe in which we live.”
The infrastructure for study in the field was already in place at ETSU, so no new funding has been needed for the minor program’s start-up.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy has five full-time faculty members in Astronomy.
ETSU already possesses the instructional facilities needed for the minor, including a planetarium and the Harry D. Powell Observatory, which boasts eight 8-inch telescopes and one 14-inch research-grade telescope.
In addition, ETSU has a share of observing time with telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile through its affiliation with the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy consortium. Also, the ETSU astronomers often use the various space-based telescopes operated by NASA, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Infrared Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Telescope.
Finally, the Department of Physics and Astronomy is in the process of upgrading its campus planetarium by replacing an old Spitz Planetarium Projector with a modern Digitarium Epsilon Fixed Dome Digital Planetarium System and replacing the old seats with new planetarium seating. The upgraded planetarium will begin operations in January 2011.
Students interested in the new Astronomy minor may call the Department of Physics and Astronomy at (423) 439-4231 for more information.