Photo Credit: Christopher Lehmann
The crowning architectural feature of the F.W. Olin Physical Sciences Center at Florida Tech is the Ortega 0.8-meter (32-inch) telescope -- the largest research telescope in Florida.
In 2004, Florida Tech obtained National Science Foundation (NSF) funding to build a 24-inch telescope atop the newly completed F.W. Olin Physical Sciences Center. Terry Oswalt, head of the astronomy program, envisioned a 32-inch telescope that “would allow us to collect nearly twice the amount of light. Also, the increased size would allow faculty and students to access double the number of objects in space as a 24-inch telescope.” But this dream would require $150,000 more.
Among those sharing Dr. Oswalt’s enthusiasm was Melbourne Beach resident Jim Ortega, who had retired from the University of Virginia to Florida in 1998. Ortega and his wife, Sara, stepped forward with the needed $150,000—anonymously. This made possible the largest research telescope in Florida, to be named the Ortega Telescope, dedicated on April 12, 2008.
The Ortega telescope now serves as the primary training and research instrument for astronomy faculty and students. Weather permitting, each month during the academic year the public is invited to view the wonders of the night sky with the Ortega 0.8-m telescope as part of the Astronomy & Astrophysics Public Lecture Series. The observatory is also home to the Florida Tech Student Astronomical Society and the Melbourne Astronomical Society. For additional information on the observatory and its programs, contact Dr. Daniel Batcheldor (321) 674-7717.