Astronomy Departmental Information

Will the universe expand forever? Is there life on other planets? How do stars form, live, and die? These are some of the exciting questions confronting astronomers in the twenty-first century. Because of the awe-inspiring immensity of the subject, the study of astronomy has a strong fascination—poetic, philosophical, speculative—for many individuals. In the modern observatory, however, the urge to understand and discover what is happening in the universe finds expression in the scientific pursuit of the subject. To explore the dynamics of colliding galaxies and of interstellar gas in galaxies, to find the compositions of chemically peculiar stars and supernovae remnants, to explain radio-galaxy variations and atomic emissions of quasars—some of the active areas in the Michigan Department of Astronomy—requires patience and dedication, together with the curiosity and talent characteristic of all scientists.

Astronomy has been pursued at the University of Michigan since 1856, and the historic Detroit Observatory still stands in its original location on Observatory Street as a reminder of the department's longevity, although astronomical research is no longer performed there. The department operates a planetarium, undergraduate laboratories, and small telescopes located on the top floor of Angell Hall. It operates three research telescopes at two different sites: a 0.6 meter Curtis Schmidt telescope on Cerro Tololo, Chile, and two telescopes of 1.3 and 2.4 meter aperture at MDM (Michigan-Dartmouth-MIT) Observatory located on Kitt Peak near Tucson, Arizona. Graduate students have access to all of these instruments.

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