Southwestern

Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

Physics

Resources & Facilities

The Physics Department is located in the state-of-the-art Fondren-Jones Science Hall.  The Fountainwood Observatory houses our large research-quality reflecting telescope, donated to the Physics Department by Max Allen, a local engineer and builder who was also an amateur astronomer. 

This Meade LX-200 with Schmidt-Cassegrain optics and a 16" primary mirror has a digital CCD camera for taking digital images that can be viewed and processed on a computer.  Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes reflect incoming light several times inside the telescope before it finally is focused in the eyepiece. Light enters the far end of the tube via a Schmidt lens, is reflected off a focuser mirror to a secondary mirror, then is reflected in a more tightly focused beam to the eyepiece.

This combination of refracting and reflecting technology yields terrific image quality, yet lets a telescope with an extremely compact tube have a very high focal length. Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes are extremely portable, and their closed designs make them rugged and reliable. With wide apertures compared to their minimal overall lengths, they produce some of the clearest, most colorful images available and have great contrast if the internal optics are of high quality.

The department conducted the Solar Ultraviolet Monitoring Program at Southwestern (SUMPAS) from 1994-2001 to monitor solar UV-B Irradiance.  SUMPAS produced seven years of data and making it the most comprehensive study of solar UV-B conducted in central Texas. Some of the important results of the program were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research (Atmospheres), vol. 107, number D22, ACH17-1 through ACH 17-7, for November 2002.