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Guthrie Announces WKU Grant for Largest Optical Telescope in Kentucky

Washington, August 31, 2021 | S.K. Bowen (202-225-3501)
Tags: Education

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Brett Guthrie (KY-02) announced a $312,294 grant for Western Kentucky University (WKU) from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

WKU has been awarded this grant to replace their decades-old telescope and control system with a modern telescope and control system at the university’s Bell Observatory. This will be the largest optical telescope in Kentucky. The telescope will generate research quality data and be available for students and faculty at WKU and surrounding higher education institutions.

“I’m happy to announce that Western Kentucky University has been awarded a federal grant for a modern telescope and control system. While WKU will be the proud home of this telescope, it will also be available for students and faculty at surrounding colleges and universities for research opportunities. There currently is not an optical telescope in Kentucky that’s both as widely available to Kentucky undergraduate students and faculty or as large as this new telescope will be. I’m excited for students and all Kentuckians that will have the chance to do research with this modern telescope and control system,” said Guthrie.

“This project will expand our capabilities in both engaged student scholarly activity and undergraduate astronomy education,” said Dr. Michael Carini, Principal Investigator on the grant and Chair of WKU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and Director of the Bell Observatory. “It will enable WKU and other Kentucky colleges and universities to increase the involvement of undergraduate students in hands-on research projects.”

“The new instrument will be used by students and faculty from WKU and across Kentucky to study supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies; deepen our understanding of the structure of our own Milky Way Galaxy; study specific classes of binary star systems that provide direct measurements of star masses and sizes; and determine if stars that may host extrasolar planets actually do or are instead two stars closely orbiting each other,” Dr. Carini said.