Inside look of the Stocker AstroScience Center

Photo by Laura Caldera/FIUSM 

Laura Caldera/Contributing Writer 

The past few semesters, there has been talk and interest surrounding one of the new buildings on campus. Though new buildings hardly seem like an uncommon occurrence lately, the Stocker AstroScience Center (StASC) has really taken the student body by surprise.

02-12-14 Stocker AstroScience Center 2

Laura Caldera/FIUSM

“This building was really meant for students to enjoy.” James Webb, Professor of Physics and Director of the SARA North Observatory, said about the building.

The StASC was named after the main donor, Carl Stocker and is the first building built with astronomy in mind. With four floors, two stairwells and one elevator, the building packed a punch to the eyes of the students who walk around it every day.

“The greatest thing was to have a nice little entryway when you enter the observatory to get you sort of in the mood for thinking about astronomy,” Webb commented as we entered the first room in the building, the Entryway.

02-12-14 Stocker AstroScience Center 3

Laura Caldera/FIUSM

As you enter the front doors of the building, the first thing that your eyes zoom in on is the beautifully crafted mural on the floor. This tile mural is actually a six-foot glass-tile mural piece, painted and made by Clayton Bryant Young, called “Starlit Journey.” The mural is supposed to show the connection between Floridian culture and outer space.

The Entryway also has another painting above, which can easily captivate your eyes during any time of the day.

“Usually in Dome Ceilings you have stars, but I thought ‘no that’s a little done, you know, so why don’t we have the Hubble Deep Field Image painted on the dome ceiling’ and that’s what this is,” Webb explained. Webb said that he hoped to have the Exhibition Hall open to all students so that they may enter during a certain time frame and look around and get in the mood to learn more about astronomy.

The first floor also houses the lab classroom that takes up the rest of the floor.

“Anyone taking introductory astronomy, stellar astronomy or solar astronomy will be taking their labs here. We have a state-of-the art projection system, and a big screen; we have also a sound system, because we also have star parties,” explained Webb.

The second floor had more rooms and one of the StASC’s most important rooms.

Webb is very proud of the control room, for it gives students who are learning astronomy to have a better chance to learn how to read different times, map out data from the telescopes and collect data of their own. Webb comments that it’s a definite step up from the cramming they used to do in his old office.

02-12-14 Stocker AstroScience Center Control Room

Laura Caldera/FIUSM

This room is able to control the telescope in the dome above them, and the three telescopes from the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA) Consortium, to which FIU is a part of. These three telescopes are located in: Kitt Peak, Arizona, Cerro Tololo, Chile, and JKT in the Canary Islands.

The second floor of the building also has the Library, or “Resource Room”, where they contain books about astronomy, different kinds of sky maps, and books of collected data from previous telescope viewings. The room also acts as a conference room.

Entering the third floor, you notice the room in the back, which is an open space with a couple of comfortable chairs and a table. The strip of window seems like it wouldn’t give off much light but it fills the whole room up with it. This is the floor where students –be they undergraduates, graduates, post-doctoral, and even the building’s lab manager– reside. The first room entered was the computer lab, where Webb currently teaches his observational astronomy class. A little down from the computer lab is the storage room, where they keep and repair their telescopes. Even though there isn’t a cool control room of sorts, the floor still has the warm, vibrating and exciting feeling of science to it.

Lastly, the fourth floor of the building is the observational pad, or the rooftop of the building. This floor is mostly used to set up the telescopes and look to the sky. With three posts for the telescopes on each side, acting like a runway to the building housing the area where Webb’s new telescope will go.

“It’s sort of a nice view from here,” claimed Webb as the dome opened up in its full glory.

When asked if this area could be used for public use, Webb replied saying that the astronomy club would be hosting lunar and solar star parties, which will give students the opportunity to also enjoy watching the stars in our skies, here at FIU.

For more information about star parties, or other upcoming events involving the astronomy club, please do not hesitate to contact them through, adding them on Facebook, or e-mailing the Astronomy Club by 

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