The Ithaca College naked-eye observatory will be based on the “Uranidrome”, first developed at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) for use by their introductory astronomy students, local school children and their teachers, and the general public. The Uranidrome (URANI from the Greek word for 'sky' and DROMOS, meaning 'a large specially prepared place’) is an astronomical observatory with no telescope. The 90-foot diameter installation, located on a flat quad between campus buildings, has 12 concrete columns each precisely aligned with the Earth and the heavens to allow naked-eye observations (i.e. unaided by any optical devices like telescopes or cameras) of stars, the moon, the daily motion of the sun, and the motion of the earth in its annual orbit around the sun. The columns are inscribed with information about the Sun, Moon, Earth and the other seven planets, as well as Pluto. Atop each column is a metal sculpture; some are purely aesthetic and others aid specific celestial observations. For some visitors to the Uranidrome, it may conjure images of Stonehenge in Great Britain, Tiwanaku in Bolivia, or Teotihuacan in Mexico. In fact the Uranidrome is inspired by all of these ancient celestial observatories and the cultures who devised and used them.

The observatory structure, its design, and its on-going use as an educational facility will involve substantial multidisciplinary and collaborative work of students, faculty, and staff in physics, astronomy, mathematics, art & architecture, history, and anthropology. IC Physical Plant and grounds personnel and IC administration will also play central roles in the planning and design process. The design phase, construction phase, and on-going use all have potential to serve many students from across campus as well as K-12 students and teachers from Ithaca and surrounding communities and it will have educational synergy with the highly popular and successful Sciencenter of Ithaca. The observatory will:

  • provide a facility for formal and informal investigation of culture, history, and science
  • be an educational destination for local and regional K-12 students and teachers
  • be aesthetically interesting and provocative in an of itself
  • preserve existing green space and walkways
  • facilitate frequent public events in concert with our existing modern observatory
  • be used for performance-based learning in courses across campus
  • be accessible to anyone at any time without supervision or special equipment
  • be useful even in partly cloudy weather as long as sun and/or moon are visible
  • be the second such facility in the nation after the MTSU Uranidrome, an award-winning educational facility
Members of the Team

Luke Keller (Associate Professor of Physics)

Matt Price (Assistant Professor of Physics)

Nathan Porter BS'11, MAT'12

HOLT Architects