Astronomer to speak at Lander University

September 19, 2011

Russell Genet

Dr. Russell M. Genet
The public is invited to attend a Thursday, Oct. 6, presentation at Lander University by Dr. Russell M. Genet, an astronomer who is leading efforts to develop the world's largest portable telescope.

Genet, a research scholar in residence at California Polytechnic State University and adjunct professor of astronomy at Cuesta College — both located in San Luis Obispo — will be the guest of Lander assistant professor of chemistry Dr. Lisa Brodhacker, his ally in the development of the cutting-edge technology.

Genet and a group of undergraduate engineering students at Cal Poly are currently designing and building the structure and control system for a telescope that will incorporate a 60-inch spin-cast epoxy mirror to be made by Brodhacker and her undergraduate students at Lander. If Genet and Brodhacker are successful, they will have developed the world's largest portable telescope.

Such a telescope, while a serious research instrument, would be far lighter and less expensive than a telescope the same size employing a glass mirror. Undergraduate institutions and amateur astronomers — often located in light-polluted cities — could transport such equipment to nearby dark-sky locations for their observing sessions.

If the camera on such a telescope were replaced with solar cells and a heat exchanger, it could also be used to generate electricity. As the price of fuel rises, such a solution to humanity's power needs could become increasingly attractive.

Genet's development of automated telescopes and robotic observatories has altered the course of observational astronomy. His groundbreaking work was the subject of the one-hour PBS special, "The Perfect Stargazer." He is the author of over a dozen books and 100 articles. As Brodhacker puts it, "he really is an expert in this area and I'm excited to be collaborating with him."

Tickets to attend Genet's presentation, slated to begin at 7 p.m. at a location to be announced, are free and can be requested by calling Brodhacker at 864-388-8187.