By Kristen Gandenberger
Indiana Humanities’ first Quantum Leap adult field trip will take place at Goethe Link Observatory on Friday, July 28. Not many people have gotten the chance to visit this lesser known historic Hoosier landmark near Mooresville, which is responsible for more than 90 percent of all asteroids discovered in the world between 1949 and 1967. Because of this, we decided to provide a sneak peek into this out of this world event by talking about the observatory’s unique history.
As the name suggests, Goethe Link Observatory was founded by Dr. Goethe Link, a respected surgeon who helped found Indiana University Medical School. Despite his busy day job, in which he treated mostly thyroid problems, Link actively pursued many sky bound hobbies. For example, in 1909 he won the National Balloon Race, a gas filled balloon race held at the not-yet-completed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Link also had an emerging interest in astronomy, which led to his founding of the observatory at Tanager Hill near his home in Morgan County.
Construction of the observatory began in 1937 with the help of Indiana Astronomical Society, an organization of mostly amateur astronomers that Link was active within. All the equipment was state of the art for its time. The telescope included a state of the art larger reflector that measures 36 inches in diameter, a size matched by only eight other observatories in the United States. The telescope’s mount was electrically welded from steel pieces instead of cast iron that was more commonly used in the 1930s.
When the observatory opened in 1939 Link welcomed scholars from nearby universities to study there, eventually gifting it to the Indiana University School of Astronomy in 1948. This launched IU’s renowned asteroid program, which put Indiana on the map as an astronomy powerhouse in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
IU still owns Goethe Link Observatory and partners with Indiana Astronomical Society to run and maintain the grounds. Though when the Observatory was founded it was “far enough from Indianapolis to escape the lights and smoke, but close enough to make city connections” as one 1940 article about the observatory puts it, light pollution and growing surrounding towns have retired the old hub from serious scientific research.
However, the observatory and grounds are still well known for their beauty (especially when the daffodils bloom in spring) and historic significance. To learn more about Goethe Link Observatory, what space exploration is like today in 2017, and how the humanities can deepen our understanding, sign up for one of the remaining spots on our July 28 adult field trip. To attend, sign up here.
Quantum Leap explores and celebrates the spirit of possibility and problem-solving that occurs when we bridge the humanities with science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. www.IndianaHumanities.org/QuantumLeap
Kristen Gandenberger is a Communication Intern at Indiana Humanities. She is a third year student at the University of Indianapolis pursuing a degree in digital media and visual communication. Her favorite planet is Jupiter.