Rosemary Hill Observatory in Bronson, Florida, was listed as the 25th best college astronomy observatory in the nation by College Rank, a website that ranks schools in topics such as architecture, entertainment, traditions, student life and campus events.
“Being on this list means we have a state of the art facility that we can offer to our students,” said Francisco Reyes, director of the University of Florida Teaching Observatory at Rosemary Hill.
The list of 35 best college observatories was narrowed down from just under 100 universities.
Kevin Shull, the College Rank data specialist responsible for compiling the list, considered many data points before narrowing the list to 35, including the number, size and technology of telescopes available at each observatory.
Shull also accounted for weather, light pollution and altitude. A higher altitude can significantly decrease atmospheric noise. The four main criteria were normalized on a scale from one to 100 and then weighted equally.
Additional points were awarded for diverse or specialized technologies. The most common bonus points were awarded to those observatories listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Out of the schools considered for this list, Rosemary Hill ranked higher than schools like Harvard University and Vassar College.
“I created this list because it was interesting but not something that you might think about right away when you think of what colleges have to offer,” Shull said.
The observatory is located 30 miles from the University of Florida campus and is UF’s visual research observatory. The 80-acre site, founded in 1967, includes two telescope domes, a dormitory and a selection of research labs. Rosemary Hill is near the largest dark area in North Florida, making it an excellent location for galactic research.
Reyes said it is mainly used by students at the university for educational purposes. “Our facilities offer students the proper training for the classes they are taking,” Reyes said.
Most students who use the observatory are enrolled in an astronomical techniques course, a practical class where students interact hands-on with telescopes and other stargazing equipment for four-to-five hours at a time.
Besides research and teaching for the university, Rosemary Hill Observatory, also known as RHO, is also used by the Alachua Astronomy Club for star parties a few times per year.
“It is a great place where star gazers can see much of the night sky,” he said. Away from Gainesville and other city lights.”