Link Observatory Looks to the Stars

The Link Observatory is constructed of wood from trees cut down from the hilltop. To craft the observatory dome, a shipbuilder curved the wood. Photo credit: Emily Metheny
At the top of a hill, at the end of a small country lane lies a hidden gem. Less than 5 miles from Mooresville sits an iron gate protecting a treasured piece of Morgan County history, the Goethe Link Observatory Space Science Institute. Built in the 1930s by an amateur astronomer and Indianapolis surgeon, Dr. Goethe Link, the facility has been in use since its creation.

Dr. Link gifted the observatory to Indiana University in the 1940s, and in the following years it was used for the Indiana Asteroid Program. Ultimately, during the 1980s light pollution made research impractical, and the program came to an end.

Consequently, Indiana University contracted the Indiana Astronomical Society to be the caretakers of the property, and in 2012, the Link Observatory Space Science Institute was founded to allow for more public programs surrounding STEM and the facility. Today, all three organizations work in a partnership to advance the study of astronomy.

Since it began offering public presentations with telescope viewing opportunities, community interest has grown to the point that presentations had to be moved from the 50 person lecture hall in the observatory to a large meeting room at the Mooresville Public Library. Following the presentation, attendees are transported to the observatory, through a partnership with CASMC, to view the night sky through the two telescopes, while learning the history of the facility itself.

Greg McCauley, executive director and CEO of the Link Observatory Space Science Institute, worked for NASA during the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions.

“The Apollo stuff, I was there when it happened,” McCauley said. “I met the guys. I watched it take place.”

Community Support 

Greg McCauley, Exec. Dir. and CEO of Link Observatory Space Science Institute; Steve Langley, President and Owner of Mt. Olive Manufacturing; Lisa Langley, Vice President and Owner of Mt. Olive Manufacturing; and Ed Kominowski, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Morgan County pose outside Link Observatory in July 2015.
Photo credit: Danie Becknell 

“Eventually, here on the property or close by, we are going to [build] our institute,” McCauley said. The building would include a full auditorium that could seat more than 250 people, a full and operational planetarium, multimedia classrooms and a mission control.

This institute would allow for STEM programming and informal education for youth throughout the county.

“One of our goals is to build an exact duplicate of the mission control center at the jet propulsion lab in California,” McCauley said.

The mission control would allow students to remotely contact and operate large telescopes throughout the world thanks to a partnership with NASA.

“You could change kids course in life, getting [them] involved in something like this. [It's] absolutely the most awesome thing ever and suddenly there is an interest in science. [Now], because there is interest in science, there's interest in math,” McCauley said.

These interests keep building to include chemistry and physics until it circles back around to liberal arts, and the child’s desire to be a well-educated scientist.

“That's what we are trying to do. To inspire those kids to say “Wow, I love this. I want to learn more,” McCauley said.

Last summer, Mt. Olive Manufacturing, a company just north of the observatory, donated $10,000 to the observatory to help provide STEM and space exploration programming to middle school children in Morgan County. The Discovery programs and NASA Digital Learning Network gets kids excited about space exploration and various STEM subjects.

“Every place we go, every time we talk to people about what we have in mind for the public, [as well as] young people, everyone's enthusiastic and willing to help,” McCauley said. “We certainly appreciate everyone's support and we look forward to a long relationship [with Mt. Olive Manufacturing and the Community Foundation of Morgan County]."

McCauley added that they want to do some capital improvements such as landscaping and updating the observatory, but the facility will be kept historically accurate.
An event attendee looks through the telescope at the observatory following a presentation at Mooresville Public Library. Photo credit: Emily Metheny 

Getting Connected Locally 

The Link Observatory Space Science Institute has a fund housed at the Community Foundation of Morgan County. McCauley said that working with the individuals of the foundation has been wonderful and helpful.

“I would like to thank the Community Foundation of Morgan County. They have been so helpful and instrumental in our initial success with our organization as we are planting our roots here and developing our informal education and public programming.”

More information and donations can be made to the organization at the CFMC website.

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