Vanderbilt Observatory in Brentwood offers public a view into space

Weekend Extra

Operating the giant Seyfert Telescope is a long way from stargazing on the banks of a pond on the family farm in Southern Illinois.

But that’s the journey of Rocky Alvey, now director of Vanderbilt’s Dyer Observatory.

“It was the Apollo Program and boots on the moon that made me want to look at the moon,” said Alvey.

His fascination with the night sky brought him to Nashville and Dyer Observatory in Brentwood, where his mission is clear.

“We’re here to connect with the community and give people an experience they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Once each month, the Seyfert and other telescopes are set up for public viewing. The planets Saturn and Jupiter, the Moon and galaxies far, far away can be seen.

“To come up here and look out and see something that’s millions of years away, it’s a mindboggling thing,” said Alvey.

Unique to Vanderbilt is an interactive scale model of our solar system.

“You can go through and look at it by constellation or by certain spectra type of star,” said Alvey.

You may also meet Dr. Bob O’Dell. He helped build the Hubble Space Telescope that sends messages from space today.

“I had been in basically the ground floor and I had worked on it for 19 years by the time it was launched,” said Dr. O’Dell.

A rare historic model of Hubble that is one fifth the scale of the original hangs from the ceiling in the library. Dr. O’Dell hopes his work inspires a new generation of summer campers.

“If they don’t all become astronomers, that’s okay because they would have become interested in the world outside the computer, the world outside their home environment and that opens up their lives.”

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