Public viewing sessions at the Keeble Observatory are normally held weekly (as weather
and viewing conditions allow) during the academic year. Watch this site for the
resumption of public sessions in September. For details, call the Keeble Information
line (804-752-3210) or contact Prof. George Spagna
The Keeble Observatory is a teaching laboratory of the Physics Department of Randolph-Macon
College in Ashland, Virginia. Its facilities are used by students in the College's
astronomy courses and by advanced physics students with an interest in astronomy.
The Observatory is a cornerstone instrument in the College's minor program in astrophysics.
The Observatory is also used for student and faculty research projects. It is located
on the College campus, which is approximately 15 miles north of Richmond, Virginia.
The dome houses a 12" Cassegrain reflector. Supporting laboratories of the Physics
Department, located in the adjacent Copley Science Center, provide a darkroom and
a number of computers. Dedicated equipment for the Observatory includes CCD cameras,
several portable telescopes, a photoelectric photometer with laptop computers for
control and data acquisition, and a grating spectrograph.
Construction of the Observatory building was initiated to house a 12 inch Newtonian
telescope built and donated in 1960 by Foy N. Hibbard, a former director of the
United States Weather Bureau in Richmond, Virginia. The dome was completed and the
Hibbard telescope was first used in 1963. The present Cassegrain telescope was purchased
from Tinsley Laboratories with funding assistance from the National Science Foundation
in 1966. In 1988 the telescope drive was completely replaced during renovations,
which also included raising the telescope's pier and rebuilding the observing platform.
Adjacent to the Observatory is the 3-meter dish of the "Center
of the Universe Radio Telescope (CURT1)." This instrument is under ongoing
testing, with "first light" achieved in summer 2001. On the roof of the Copley Science
Center is the dipole array for our second radio telescope, dubbed
CURT2. These telescopes are available for student research.
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Dr. William Houston Keeble, distinguished Professor of Physics at Randolph-Macon
College from 1919 until his retirement in 1952, was a native of Blount, Tennessee.
He studied at Maryville College and at the University of Tennessee, where he received
a Bachelor of Science degree in 1903. He did graduate work at Columbia University
and the University of Chicago, where he worked with 1923 Nobel laureate Dr. Robert
A. Millikan. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Maryville College
Before coming to Randolph-Macon, he was Professor of Physics at the College of William
and Mary from 1907 to 1919. Dr. Keeble was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the American
Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Astronomical
Society, and was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
From Washington and north: Take Interstate 95 south to the Ashland/Hanover
exit (State Route 54). Follow Route 54 west past the commercial strip and across
U.S. Route 1. Turn right onto Calhoun Street just before the 7-11 store and drive
2 blocks to the corner of the College campus. Continue on Calhoun Street 1 more
block to the Observatory on the left side, just past the Copley Science Center.
From Richmond and south: Take Interstate 95 north to the Ashland/Hanover
exit (State Route 54), and follow the directions given above.
From Charlottesville and west: Take Interstate 64 east to the interchange
for Interstate 295. Take 295 toward Washington until the interchange for Interstate
95 north. Follow the directions given above.