Leslie Hebb and the Richard S. Perkin Observatory
In 2012, the Colleges hired Professor Leslie Hebb, an astrophysicist and graduate of John Hopkins University.
The following year Prof. Hebb received two grants from the National Science Foundation. The first was a three-year grant for her research project on mapping the gravitational fields of low-mass stars. The second was for computer hardware for additional research she was conducting with astrophysicists from Vanderbilt University.
Also in 2013, Hobart and William Smith Colleges joined the Astronomical Research Consortium which allowed researchers on campus to gain access to the telescopes at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico.
By 2014, three astronomy courses had been added to the curriculum: PHYS 113: The Solar System and Extra-solar Planets, PHYS 114: Stars, Galaxies and the Universe, and PHYS 115: Astrobiology.
In 2016, Prof. Hebb received a grant from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement to fund her research into creating a diffuser, an optical device which allows the observation of exoplanets in other solar systems.
The Richard S. Perkin Observatory
In 2014, the Colleges received two grants from The Perkin Fund, orchestrated by Christopher Perkin ’95, for the building of an observatory named after his grandfather, Richard S. Perkin.
The construction of the Richard S. Perkin Observatory began in 2015 and was completed in 2016. It is a 38' x 24' structure with classroom space and a 17" Corrected Dall-Kirkham Astrograph Telescope (CDK) from PlaneWave Instruments.
When completed, the observatory allowed the addition of PHYS 225: Observational Astronomy to the curriculum.
Several photos of its construction can be seen to the left.
Students Garth Burke ’17, Audrey English ’17, Sarah Pullman ’18 and J.P. White ’17, working with Art and Architecture professor Gabriella D’Angelo designed the landscaping around the observatory.
With Prof. Hebb and the Richard S. Perkin Observatory, more opportunities have opened up for students interested in astronomy.
In 2014, Michelle Gomez '16 interned at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore Maryland. In 2018, students doing a winter break program in La Serena, Chile led by Associate Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies May Farnsworth and Assistant Professor of Physics Leslie Hebb visited the Cerro Tololo Observatory. Prof. Hebb returned to the Cerro Tololo Observatory with Max Brondheim '20 in 2019. Brondheim, has since founded a physics and astronomy club on campus.
In addition to increased curriculum, there have been community outreach programs with the Girl Scouts, local schools, and observatory open nights for the public.
The Richard S. Perkin Observatory website is here: http://people.hws.edu/hebb/ObservatoryWebpage
It is also on Facebook here: @hwsastronomy