What was once a shining star at Georgetown has dimmed to a barely noticeable glow, but some students believe that it can make a reappearance.

Nestled between Kehoe Field and McDonough Gymnasium, the Astronomical Observatory is the third-oldest university observatory in the country. Georgetown students have been looking into the great beyond from the observatory for 165 years, and today, 20 students are still using its telescopes. Although the university was once internationally renowned in the field of astronomy and was the site of cutting edge research, now, the observatory is a largely forgotten space on campus. The astronomy club even recognizes its marginalization on campus, printing on the back of its T-shirts the slogan “Georgetown’s Best Kept Secret.” But although its shirts read one thing, the students hope for another: The club is seeking to breathe new life into the observatory by transforming the space into a working, hands-on museum. Talks with the administration are underway, and the students are hoping to put together a fund for their project.

Georgetown would do well to seize with both hands such a perfect opportunity to develop a worthwhile student-led initiative. Too few students are aware of how rare it is to have a resource so embedded with historic and scientific value at their fingertips. The observatory is a veritable treasure trove of instruments and gadgets, metal embodiments of the human spirit of exploration – such as the substantial refractor telescope from the 1890s – which are currently strewn haphazardly around the building or, perhaps even more tragically, boxed up and hidden away in the basement.

As it is now, the observatory is not serving the broader interest of the community. It is only accessible if the presidents of the astronomy club, the only possessors of keys, are in attendance. Were the observatory to be converted into a museum, the building could be used far more often than just for Wednesday astronomy club meetings, and the process of rediscovery by Georgetown students could begin immediately.

And it’s not only students with an affinity for sciences who can benefit from the renovation: Those in the museum studies courses could take part in the organization of the museum as well as the maintenance of it. Devotees of Georgetown who want to preserve the university’s history could use the museum to prominently display the Blue and Gray’s history. Even the greater D.C. community could benefit from Georgetown’s observatory being opened to the public as a museum, since it would be an alternative to the Naval Observatory, which is understandably rather difficult to gain entrance to. Once renovated, the observatory could be an attraction that would draw people to Georgetown, an educational resource and a source of revenue.

The observatory should be restored to a condition befitting a national monument to science. Georgetown was a leader in the field of astronomy for over a decade in the mid-1900s. Although Georgetown may now be devoting its time and resources to building the futures of the science department and the McDonough School of Business, it should not neglect its rich and glowing history of astronomical proportions.

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