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Communiversity Continues Longtime Partnership with Cincinnati Observatory

The National Historic Landmark will open its doors to the UC community for five courses this winter.

Date: 1/31/2018 12:00:00 AM
By: Cassie Lipp

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Cincinnati Observatory Building

Since its now historic telescope was placed on Cincinnati’s Mount Lookout in 1873, the Cincinnati Observatory has inspired generations to look at the stars and take an interest in the universe around them. Aside from the antiquity of the site, the Observatory’s partnership with the University of Cincinnati also goes back generations.

The university and observatory have partnered to offer for-credit courses since 1933. The Observatory was under the control of the Physics Department until 1999, when the site was taken over by the nonprofit Cincinnati Observatory Center and opened to the public a year later. It is home to the nation's oldest public telescope.

Before the Observatory was open to the public, it was open for noncredit Communiversity astronomy courses. This was the first time Communiversity courses were located off the university campus.

“By offering the courses at the Observatory, Communiversity students had the privilege of using the oldest, continuously used professional telescope in the world – and in a National Historic Landmark building,” said John Ventre, a historian for the observatory.

Ventre teaches Behind the Scenes at the Observatory, in which students can investigate how 19th-century astronomers determined time for the city of Cincinnati; discover why the observatory was designated a National Historic Landmark; and find out what is in store for the future. If weather permits, the moon will be viewed through the oldest continuously used telescope following the program. Behind the Scenes at the Observatory takes place on March 4 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Also being offered at the Observatory this winter is Longitude: John Harrison and His Clocks. Students can find out what makes a clock tick, literally, as they explore the advances Harrison made in clock-making during the 18th century. The course is taught by J. David Bosse, an instructor of astronomy who has been teaching at UC for more than 35 years. The class is on Feb. 27 from 7 to 9 p.m.

The Outreach Scientist of the Cincinnati Observatory, Aaron Eiben, shares his passion for the cosmos with everyone he meets. Eiben will teach Tour of the Universe, in which students can fly past the moon, planets, stars and galaxies to the edge of the known universe. Eiben will answer as many students’ questions about the cosmos as he can. The course also includes a gaze through the telescope, weather permitting. Tour of the Universe takes place on March 13 from 7 to 9 p.m.

In Optics: Through the Telescope, instructor J. David Bosse will answer many questions about how telescopes work as the course explores the makings of the “magic tube.” Fun, visually dramatic experiments will make the mysteries of lenses and mirrors crystal clear. Students also will peek inside a variety of working telescopes, including the observatory's famous telescope if weather permits. Optics: Through the Telescope takes place on March 21 from 7 to 9 p.m.

The final class offered at the observatory this winter is a new course Spaceballs, which answers questions such as what a home run would look like on Mars, and if you could hit a baseball off the moon. Answering these questions requires knowledge of physics, mathematics and planetary science, but it’s not as hard as one might think. Eiben guides students in figuring it out. Students also will get to gaze through the telescope if the sky is clear. Spaceballs takes place on March 25 from 1 to 3 p.m.

The course fee for each class is $35.

“The Observatory serviced over 31,000 visitors in 2017, and almost half of these were adults,” Ventre said. “Consequently, our mission and vision dovetails very well with the mission and vision of the UC Communiversity and their adult students.”

The Cincinnati Observatory is a fully functioning 19th-century observatory used daily by the public, amateur astronomers, civic organizations, students, teachers and history buffs. The center is dedicated to maintaining the integrity and heritage of the historic observatory while promoting the study and practice of 21-century astronomy and science.

“Our vision is to be a primary resource in furthering astronomy and science education through educational programming,” Ventre said.

Communiversity offers fun and innovative continuing education courses to enrich the lives of those around Cincinnati and beyond. With locations both on UC Victory Parkway Campus and around Cincinnati, Communiversity makes it easy for working professionals, retirees and other lifelong learners to develop new skills and hobbies.

To register for Communiversity astronomy classes, visit our website or call (513)556-6932 and press 2.

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