BREC’s Highland Road Park Observatory is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
The observatory is run through a partnership between BREC, LSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Baton Rouge Astronomical Society. It boasts an accessible 16-inch reflecting telescope and a state-of-the-art 20-inch reflecting telescope that has been used to discover more than 40 asteroids.
LSU astrophysicist and society member Melanie Hair came up with the idea for a public telescope, and the LSU Department of Physics and Astronomy secured the funding for a 20-inch professional-grade reflector from the Optical Guidance Systems company, a news release said. BREC provided grounds, a building, staff and an operating budget.
Since its opening in fall 1997, the observatory has provided a number of public programs including Science Academy for children, the Friday Night Lecture Series, NanoDays, Edge of Night, American Radio Relay League Field Day and Spooky Spectrum. International Astronomy Day is its most popular event of the year, setting a new attendance record in 2016 with more than 1,100 people in attendance.
The observatory also opens annually for the peaks of the Perseid and Geminid meteor showers.