From our Moon to Saturn, The Law's Observatory gives you a view you cannot get from anywhere else in Central Missouri. It has a roof to view downtown, an exhibit with lots of unique pictures, and a large telescope capable of seeing planets in our solar system and large stars and galaxies outside of it. The observatory is an intriguing, and free, way of spending a Wednesday night and on clear nights you can see some incredible things. It is open Wednesday from 8-10pm and during all visible eclipses, comet showers and other special astronomical events.
Its regulars include amateur astronomers, families, and students. During comet showers and eclipses they have had crowds stay late; they have remained open until as late as 2am and for the last Mercury Transit they stayed open for two consecutive days. A lot of students have not been to the observatory though or even know where it is, but once they visit they typically become big advocates.
Sophomore Finance major Nick Dematteo visited the observatory for the first time on Wednesday, April 20 and was able to see the Red Spot of Jupiter, something usually not visible from the Law’s Observatory. He mentioned thatnot only the sights, but also the exhibit itself is “a really cool part of Mizzou that not enough students take advantage of” and he said he plans on coming back because “you never know when you’ll see something spectacular”. A more avid astronomer,
Freshmen Jake Eovaldi, was ecstatic about seeing the Red Spot and a full moon in the same night. He comes to the observatory for hours at a time just to assure he sees as much as possible. He stated, “There is just so much to see in the sky. I’ll never feel like I have seen it all” and reinforced that ideal when he told me about the things he is looking forward to seeing this summer. He talked about “the Mercury Transit” and how it is a “rare occurrence in which Mercury passes through the sun during the day”. He finds the observatory relaxing and the autographed pictures in the exhibit fascinating. He has even grown to know one of the observatory managers, Randall Durk.
Randy, what he prefers to go by, has been working with Law’s Observatory and the Central Missouri Astronomical Association since the 1980’s and has a real love for it. It is all volunteer work and it is rare he misses a Wednesday night atop the Physic’s building. As a leader of the Law’s Observatory, Randy told me it is unlikely he sees another Mercury Transit in his lifetime, "because of the visibility factors”. According to him, the next 2 visible transits are scheduled for November 2019, a traditionally cloudy month, and sometime in the 2040's.
The Law’s Observatory is a great place for all types of people from the mid-Missouri area to socialize, educate themselves and be fascinated by the world around them. Its location, price (free), educational and entertainment value make it a premier activity for a Wednesday night; just ask Freshmen Secondary-Education Major, Jake Festenstein, who said “I didn’t really know a lot about the Law’s Observatory before I came here for extra credit in my Astronomy class" but afterwards he couldn’t wait to "comeback and bring my friends”.
The biggest factor for the recent excitement among students about the observatory has been the ultra-clear skies we had during the month of April. Visibility has been excellent and if the weather patterns continue then Saturn will be visible during the Summer months which should keep members of the community rolling through. The increase in attendance should lead to more donations, so they can upgrade the facilities in the near future. Randy said if they acquired more funds he would like to increase floor space for the exhibit.