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New Devices To Open Skies
for Lessons about Climate, Universe

Date: March 12, 2002
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Tower photo by: Lisa Ventre
Archive: Campus News

New equipment on the roof at Braunstein Hall will allow students studying the climate and the universe to put classroom theories to the "real" test.

Weather tower installed

A 5-foot weather tower installed last week will provide continuous weather data to students in geography courses who are studying meteorology. Astronomy students will be learning more about the sun by tracking it with a sun telescope, or heliostat, that will be installed atop Braunstein this summer.

The $2,800 weather tower, acquired with Instructional Technology and Instructional Equipment funds, feeds air temperature, wind velocity and direction, humidity, precipitation and barometric readings by radio transmitter to a digital display and recording device stored on Braunstein's fourth floor. The readouts are visible on a monitor kept in a display case down the hall from the geography department offices.

Kenneth Hinkel, professor of geography and a meteorologist, has been working for months to get the weather station operational. Facilities Management staff members Dale Kleimeyer (not pictured in photo at right), Glen Kirby and Dale Beihle mounted the tower, made of galvanized pipe, to the rooftop on March 12, and Hinkel will be making adjustments for calibration.

The rooftop equipment includes:

  • An anemometer with cups, to measure wind speed and direction.
  • A resistance thermister to gauge temperature.
  • A barometer to monitor barometric pressure.
  • A tipping bucket to track precipitation.
  • An antenna for transmitting the data and a radio transmitter.
  • A solar radiometer, a tube-shaped device measuring the intensity and amount of sunlight.

Hinkel hopes someday to place a digital display in the McMicken Commons area so that students walking around campus can see the current temperature.

In the coming months, the physics department will be constructing a heliostat, to be mounted on Braunstein's roof this summer. A heliostat is a telescope specially designed to safely observe the sun and will be used in astronomy courses. The heliostat will allow students in Room 399, Braunstein to see real-time images of the sun projected onto a wall-mounted screen.

Sun image

According to Margaret Hanson, assistant professor of physics and an astrophysicist who originally conceived of the heliostat project, the sunlight reaches the classroom from the roof through a 40-foot 8-inch diameter tube and three 6-inch mirrors. Once the light arrives in the class room, it passes through a system of additional mirrors, lenses and filters that make the sun safe for viewing. Unlike an ordinary telescope, the new heliostat will allow a whole classroom to view the same image all at once. It also allows the students to make direct measurements and perform experiments on the light coming from all over the surface of the sun, which will be projected to a diameter of about 3 feet on the wall.

The class will be able to view the sun daily and monitor the motion and evolution of sun spots and flares from day to day, Hanson said. "UC will be one of only a few universities in the country to have such a telescope," she said.

The heliostat, which has been funded by a $30,000 Ohio Board of Regents grant, will be housed in a 7-foot-diameter dome that will be placed on the east side of Braunstein's roof. Currently, a night sky telescope is found in a dome on the roof's west end.

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