FRENCH CAMP, Miss. (WCBI) – WCBI’s Jillian Garrigues is hitting the road, exploring the lesser-known places to see and things to do in Northeast Mississippi and West Alabama. They are the “Hidden Treasures” in our area.
Tucked away in the hills of Choctaw County lies the Rainwater Observatory and Planetarium. On the French Camp Academy campus, 16 state of the art telescopes stretch across the land, allowing a closer look at the dark night sky.
“We have one of the largest observatories here in the Southeast United States. We have some of the largest telescopes here. The 32 inch reflector is one of the largest in the state, it’s one of the largest in the Southeast,” said Edwin Faughn, observatory director.
The facility welcomes several thousand visitors every year. Schools, boy scout troops, churches and other organizations often come for private programs. Free public programs are held monthly. Both young and old can learn something valuable.
“I’m really interested in science, it’s my favorite subject. I learned a lot about gravity here,” said Alisha Carino, a fifth grader in Starkville.
“I just really like the idea of the stars, I like looking at them and trying to figure out the constellations,” said Isabelle Laudenback, French Camp Academy student.
“The guy takes time, he slows down to explain things to you so you can understand it,” said parent Twila Laudenback.
While a cloudy sky might lower your chances of spotting planets and star constellations, there’s no need to worry. The indoor planetarium lights up a clear night sky. The big dipper, leo, and orion are easily identifiable.
“The observatory’s a little bit of an odd thing to have really anywhere, especially in Mississippi in the center of Choctaw County. But it’s really an amazing thing nestled in one of the darkest places in the Southeast,” Faughn said.
The visit to Rainwater reminds you just how small the world really is.
“We live our daily lives, we come to and from work and we don’t have a clue of the universe that we actually live in. At this very moment we’re traveling at 66,000 miles an hour around the sun. Our sun is one star out of 200 billion others in our galaxy alone. We are a tiny speck in the middle of something far greater than any one of us can begin to comprehend,” Faughn said.
Friends at the observatory say to look in the Western sky within the next few weeks, and you may spot the Pan-STARRS comet. Rainwater Observatory and Planetarium, one more hidden treasure in your own backyard.