Capital Region Gains Astronomy Expert, Excellent Science Communicator
163-year-old Astronomy Institution Expands Its Education Programs with miSci
Two years after the Dudley Observatory moved to miSci (the Museum of Innovation and Science), the 163-year old astronomy institution and the region’s science center are strengthening their existing collaboration into a new strategic partnership with the appointment of a new Dudley Observatory Astronomer, Dr. Valerie Rapson, and with miSci providing administrative support to the Dudley Observatory.
Dudley Observatory Astsronomer, Dr. Valerie Rapson, received a Ph.D.from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Astrophysical Sciences and Technology and a Bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Rochester. She has extensive research experience in the chemical composition and structure of planet-forming disks around nearby young stars and in atmospheric science and star formation as observed by infrared telescopes. Dr. Rapson brings extensive experience in the field of informal astronomy education reaching people of all ages from summer class students to senior citizens. Dr. Rapson’s Senior Science program is featured in the October issue of Astronomy Magazine.
“I’m really excited to be spearheading the astronomy education programs at the Dudley Observatory. This facility offers so much wonderful history, and the recent partnering with miSci will really help the observatory grow its educational programming. We hope to reach out to all members of the public, both young and young-at-heart, and teach them the wonders of astronomy,” said Dudley Observatory Astronomer Dr. Valerie Rapson. “Everyone should have the opportunity to learn about the Universe. My goal for Dudley is to enhance the current programming beyond basic night sky observing and present scientific material in a fun and understandable way. You don’t need to be a ‘rocket scientist’ to learn about, understand, and enjoy astronomy.”
Under the new partnership, miSci will manage back office duties for the Dudley Observatory, which will maintain a separate board of directors comprised of top academics from all of the institutions of higher learning in the Capital Region.
“I am truly delighted that miSci and the Dudley Observatory are partnering to more effectively achieve our common mission of providing engaging science education in the Capital District. miSci provides a fantastic environment in which our newly hired Dudley Obsrevatory Astronomer, Dr. Valerie Rapson, can grow astronomy programming. miSci is awesome. Valerie is awesome. If you’re passionate about astronomy or science education, you’re going to love the new Dudley Observatory at miSci,” said RPI Professor Dr. Heidi Newberg, Dudley Observatory’s Board President.
The new partnership builds on their existing collaboration which has allowed the Dudley Observatory to expand the reach of its astronomy programs through miSci’s increasing audience. Since moving to miSci in 2013, the Dudley has had a public presence in miSci’s transforming facility and its important History of Astronomy Library & Archives has been housed properly along with miSci’s prestigious archival collection of more than 1.5 million images and artifacts. Since the initial collaboration, miSci has benefited from the astronomy expertise of the Dudley’s Board of Directors who represent ground-breaking research and education in Astronomy and Astrophysics at RPI, Union, University at Albany and Siena.
“As the region’s science center, we have a climate of collaboration at miSci, and we are proud to be partnering with the Dudley Observatory to help bring more top quality astronomy programs to an expanding audience,” said miSci’s President Dr. Mac Sudduth. “We welcome the chance to help offer astronomy programs and events by the Dudley Observatory at miSci to the Capital Region and beyond.”
In conjunction with Dr. Rapson’s appointment as the Dudley Observatory Astronomer and the new alliance with miSci, the Dudley Observatory is also unveiling a new website which is already live at dudleyobservatory.org. The new site captures the excitement and dynamism of the Dudley Observatory’s new energy with information on the organization’s significant archives and collections; astronomy programs and events; information about the current night sky and viewing opportunities; and more. The site also serves as a resource for night sky viewing information and opportunities as well as information about cultivating an interest in the night sky and an introduction to telescopes.
About Dudley Observatory
The Dudley Observatory, chartered by the State of New York in 1852, is the oldest independent organization in the United States supporting research and education in astronomy and the history of astronomy. The current focus of the Dudley Observatory is on using astronomy to promote science education, with an emphasis on education, recruitment and early career development in science and technology. The Dudley Observatory’s library contains one of the world’s finest collections of historically significant astronomical texts, including rare books of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. The first Dudley Observatory was constructed on a hill in North Albany in 1856. In 1893 a second Observatory was built on Lake Avenue near New Scotland Avenue in Albany and remained in operation until 1965. During the 20th century, Dudley Observatory astronomers achieved world class status with their accurate determination of the positions and motions of more than 30,000 stars. From 1956 to 1976, the Observatory was a world leader in the study of micrometeorites, tiny particles less than one-ten-thousandth of a meter in diameter that bombard the earth from space. During the 1970s, the Dudley Observatory also operated a 100-foot radio telescope at Bolton Landing, New York. Dudley Observatory’s programs include the SkyWatch Lectures, the Rising Stars Internship program, the Hessberg Campership Award, a collaboration with the Capital Region BOCES to provide Star Lab inflatable planetarium programs for schools, and Octagon Barn Star Parties.
The Dudley Observatory Board of Directors includes: President Heidi Jo Newberg, Ph.D. – Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Vice President Francis P. Wilkin, Ph.D. – Astronomy and Physics Professor at Union College; Treasurer Paul Schoch; Stephen C. Ainlay, Ph.D. – President of Union College; Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D. – President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; J. Douglass Klein, Ph.D., – Kenneth B. Sharpe Professor of Economics at Union College; Kevin Knuth, Ph.D. – Associate Professor in Physics and Informatics at University at Albany (SUNY); Greg Newell – Albany Area Amateur Astronomers; John Sherman; Joan Wagner – past-president of the Science Teachers Association of New York State (STANYS); and Thomas Whalen.
For more information, visit DudleyObservatory.org.
Founded in 1934, miSci is the only science center in Tech Valley offering a multimedia experience for visitors of all ages and serves school children from northeastern New York, western Massachusetts, and southern Vermont. miSci houses the Challenger Learning Center of the Capital Region, a state-of the-art STEM teaching tool which offers simulated space missions to school classes, community groups, work teams, scout troops, birthday celebrations, camp-ins, private parties and team building events. In 2012, miSci entered into a partnership program with the San Francisco-based Exploratorium’s ExNET (Exploratorium Network for Exhibit-Based Teaching) program, miSci receives a different group of hands-on, exploratory-rich exhibits each year for five years, as well as access to the Exploratorium resources to advance each partner’s work in specific areas such as education, inquiry, science engagement, and exhibit development. The Suits-Bueche Planetarium at miSci houses the only GOTO Star Projector in the northeast and is an official NASA Space Place. miSci’s Archives include an extensive GE Photograph collection, with more than 1.6 million prints and negatives; an archival collection with more than 3,500 cubic feet of historic materials; and more than 15,000 objects relating to the history of science and technology. miSci’s Archives houses an 1878 Edison tinfoil, the second oldest documented Edison tinfoil recording, the oldest playable American voice. miSci offers Science Zone, with weekly hands-on activities and challenges; Saturday Science Zone activities are sponsored by National Grid. For more information, visit www.misci.org.