Observatory and Planetarium - Augustana College



    Pen and Ink Sketch with Watercolor - Erwin Weber - 1980


According to Glen E. Brolander, author of An Historical Survey of the Augustana College Campus, 1992, the observatory and planetarium were built as a result of an increased interest in astronomy both on the campus and in the community. In 1958, the College received a 6-inch Zeiss refractor telescope from the estate of Carl Gamble. In 1969, this telescope was installed in the new campus observatory. In 1992, the college purchased a computer-driven 14-inch Celestron reflector telescope. It was installed in the 40-foot tower. The instrument is covered by a metal dome 17 feet in diameter, and has a spacious outdoor observation deck.

The Planetarium, covered by a 30-foot dome, is on the main floor of the building. It is equipped with a $45,000 Spitz instrument which projects movements of the stars and planets for study. The room provides seating for 76 people. There is also a science lecture hall accommodating 168 persons at fixed tables on a terraced floor. The building is connected to the Swenson Science Building by an underground tunnel.

The lobby of the building provides display space for scientific exhibits. It is named in honor of the Harry W. Getz and Howard H. Rogers families in recognition of their gifts. Among the items exhibited in the gallery was a moon rock loaned to Augustana by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration when Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon (July 21, 1969), attended a Seminar on Space Exploration on the campus of Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois. The seminar was held February 10-12, 1972. Among the participants for a panel in Centennial Hall were Dr. Roald Fryxell, Associate Professor of Geochronology, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington; Dr. Edward Olson, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois; Neil Armstrong, Commander of Apollo 11 which landed on the moon; Dr. Thor Karlstrom, Center of Astrogeology, Flagstaff, Arizona; and Dr. James Van Allen, Chairman, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa..

The entire structure was designated as the John Deere Planetarium in recognition of a gift of $250,000 from Deere and Company, at the time the largest corporate gift received during the Augustana Acceleration Program.