Sabby raised more than $400,000 to build observatory

Jeffrey Sabby, assistant professor of physics, has been working tirelessly on a project to construct an observatory on SIUE’s campus since his arrival at SIUE in 2007.

The observatory, located near Prairie Hall, constructed through the efforts of Jeffrey Sabby, assistant professor of physics. (Photo courtesy of J. Sabby).

The observatory is near completion and promises to be an excellent resource for all SIUE students—particularly physics majors.

“The optical system should be assembled by the end of December,” said Sabby. “The debugging—software wise—and testing of the system will take place in the spring; while that is happening we should still be able to take data.”

Sabby has successfully obtained more than $400,000 in grants to construct the observatory. The grants have come from the College of Arts and Sciences, the SIUE Chancellor’s Office, NASA, Illinois Space Grant Consortium and the American Astronomical Society among other sources.

Sabby’s interest in observatories is one that dates back to his years as a graduate student. He is also responsible for the construction of an observatory at his alma mater—the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

“When I was working on my master’s degree at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, I built my own observatory in my backyard to use as sort of a test,” said Sabby. “Then, once we could show that it worked—that you could have a small automated observatory—I began to write all the control software for it and my thesis advisor, Dr. Lacey, filed for an NFS grant so that we could construct an observatory at the University of Arkansas.”

Jeffrey Sabby, assistant professor of physics. (Photo courtesy of J. Sabby).

Sabby’s thesis advisor was awarded an NSF Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement grant and the observatory was built at the university a few years later.

The observatory at SIUE, located near Prairie Hall, is more advanced than the one Sabby helped to construct at his alma mater seven years ago.

Sabby hopes that the observatory will be useful  for both students enrolled in the Physics program at SIUE and students taking the Introductory Astronomy course, PHYS 118.

“The observatory will give students—physics majors—hands-on experience using advanced systems, taking data, and then analyzing that data,” explained Sabby. “The data will be good enough to be used in peer reviewed journal articles for the Astronomical Journal or the Astrophysical Journal.”

For undergraduate physics students looking to pursue a master’s or higher, explained Sabby, having their names appear in such academic journals can be a tremendous advantage.

Sabby also emphasized that the observatory should be regarded with care as vandalization would adversely effect its operability.

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