Sky and Telescope

"Astronomy at Agnes Scott" by William A. Calder
Sky & Telescope September 1950

Bradley Observatory, Agnes Scott College

Dedication of Bradley Observatory of Agnes Scott College, Decatur, Ga., took place on June 3, 1950 (see front cover). This is the first adequate observatory in an important area of the Southeast. Hundreds of students and visitors will have their lives enriched because of the vision and prodigious effort of Dr. James R. McCain, president of the college.

At the foot of the telescope pier, in the main lobby where one enters the building, is a plaque giving the geographical co-ordinates of the pier as determined by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. The surrounding walls have spaces for photographs and transparencies being given by members of the Atlanta Astronomers, our local amateur society that has Bradley Observatory as its headquarters. To the left of the rotunda is a lecture room with a seating capacity of 125 persons. There is a small stage which, by a strange coincidence, is ideal for chamber music. The first floor also has a large room for telescope making activities, a darkroom, library, and offices.

One of the most attractive features is the 14-foot planetarium dome--far superior to the parachute under which the author has had formerly to stack school children of the region. The planetarium projector is the same as that described in Sky and Telescope VIII, 181, 1949. It is of the pinpoint projection type, with separate optical projectors for the planets. A gift of $1,000 toward the planetarium chamber was made by Mandle Zaban, of Atlanta. There is a large flat roof for constellation study, where portable instruments can also be set up. These can be stored in a room beneath the telescope.

Ample space for laboratory work is provided in the basement of the building. The largest contribution to the projection was a gift of $50,000 made by the W.C. and Sarah H. Bradley Foundation of Columbus, Ga. The Aluminum Company of America donated the aluminum plate and structural elements for the dome; this, in turn, was fabricated largely as a gift by the R.D. Cole Manufacturing Company of Newnan, Ga.

Our principal instrument is a 30-inch reflecting telescope, formerly owned by Henry C. Gibson, Jenkintown, Pa. It has a Warner and Swasey mounting, with optical elements by J.W. Fecker, and was completely refurbished and modified to suit our Dixie latitude by the Perkin-Elmer Corporation. It is now known as the Lewis H. Beck telescope, as $15,000 was contributed for it by the Beck Foundation of Atlanta. The Research Corporation of New York has contributed $3,100 for a photoelectric photometer, being made by the John, F. Jewett Company, Amherst, Mass., and a two-prism slit spectrograph, by Perkin-Elmer.

The new observatory climaxes quite a skyslide we have had at Agnes Scott College. The number of students in astronomy has trebled for three successive years until the astronomy enrollment comprised a fifth of the total student body. Astronomy courses at Agnes Scott are being made available for credit to students of Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology. Classes in telescope making have also been conducted for the past three years, and amateur astronomers have developed optical shop activities. The Atlanta Astronomers have been active also in conducting lecture meetings and in the publication of a journal, Atlanta Astronomers Report. Every effort has been made to encourage attendance at the planetarium.