Guest blog: Panama inaugurates its first astronomical observatory

Posted by Karri Ferron
on Tuesday, May 31, 2011

We first learned about Panama’s growing astronomy enthusiasm when Astronomy columnist and contributing editor Stephen James O’Meara spent a few days in January there to attend the 1st Congress of Panama Amateur Astronomy 2011. At that time, the Panamanian Amateur Astronomy Association (APAA) had received the gift of an observatory telescope, the facility of which was under construction. Since that time, the observatory has been completed, and Captain Luis A. Velásquez, president of the APAA, was kind enough to send us an update on the project.

The Primer Observatorio de Panamá is (as the name implies) the first astronomical observatory in the Republic of Panama. // All photos by Captain Luis A. Velásquez
The planets, the Moon, meteors, asteroids, and the whole universe are now closer to the Panamanians. On Thursday, April 28, 2011, the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá (UTP) inaugurated the first astronomical observatory of the Republic of Panama. Several astronomers from France, Mexico, and Chile participated in the inauguration, as well as important authorities in Panama. The observatory is located in the regional center of the UTP at Coclé, near the city of Penonomé (about 90 miles [150 kilometers] southwest of Panama City), in the southern side of the country.

The observatory’s first director, R. Delgado-Serrano, holds a Ph.D. from Paris Observatory in France. “Astronomy and astrophysics is closely linked to the development of technology and the development of a country. This is the reason why we are working hard to be the best of the region in this area,” says Delgado-Serrano. Furthermore, the president of the UTP, Marcela Paredes de Vásquez, assures that “the UTP, through the observatory, wants to turn Panama into a reference center for science and research in the field of astronomy and astrophysics and to encourage, in children and young people, the interest for these areas and all areas related to science.”

Members of the Panamanian Amateur Astronomy Association celebrate the observatory’s completion.
The new observatory houses a Meade 14-inch LX200GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, donated by the French government to the public university. The telescope is mounted on an Astro-Physics 1200 mount and installed in a full-fledged observatory featuring an astronomical dome and several rooms, funded by UTP. The observatory is also equipped with other devices, including a CCD detector, an autoguider, adaptive optics, and filters. Moreover, the first floor of the observatory features an astronomical exhibition hall, which displays various astronomical topics and historical samples of people who have excelled in astronomy.

The inauguration of Panama’s new observatory concluded with skygazing followed by a fireworks display.

Congratulations to the APAA, the UTP, and all astronomy enthusiasts in Panama!


Related blog
Steve O’Meara sees Panama’s astronomy enthusiasm grow

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