From astronomy to materials science, JMU Physics and Astronomy strives to make our resources available to the local community. Expand any of the sections listed below to learn more about our outreach programs for JMU students and the general public! 

The Society of Physics Students (SPS) is a professional association with the only requirement that the student member be interested in physics. JMU has an active chapter of SPS. The group organizes the fall and spring department picnics and meets several times a month to plan outreach and entertainment activities. Almost all of the JMU physics majors join SPS making our majors a tightly knit group.

Closely associated with the SPS is Sigma Pi Sigma. Sigma Pi Sigma is the National Physics Honor Society. The Sigma Pi Sigma Chapter of James Madison University was chartered on April 22, 1983. Sigma Pi Sigma exists to honor outstanding scholarship in physics, to encourage interest in physics among students at all levels, to promote an attitude of service of its members towards their fellow students and the public, and to provide a fellowship of persons who have excelled in physics. Since its founding at Davidson College in 1921, over 460 chapters of Sigma Pi Sigma have been established with a current membership of over 75,000. Our chapter has inducted 120 members over its 25 year history.

JMU maintains an active astronomy club consisting of students in all majors with an active interest in astronomy. JMU Astronomy Club meets every other Thursday at 8 PM during the semester in the Miller Planetarium. The club frequently holds observation nights making use of JMU's Astronomy Park and occasionally at off-site locations. Each semester, the group organizes a field trip to sites of astronomical interest including nearby Greenbank Radio Observatory in West Virginia and McCormick Observatory in Charlottesville, VA.

The department of Physics & Astronomy has developed a workshop for high school students who may be interested in this emerging field. Our hope is to delve into some of the very basic principles and methods. We seek to have students discover the answers to such questions as: How can you maneuver using simple DC-motors or servos? How do you integrate motion and environmental response using a microprocessor? How can one build and test simple electronic circuits that provide speed regulation? How can one sense light, obstacles and other environmental factors using sensors? Last spring we challenged a group of physics majors to design and build a robot that could find and collect paper clips in an enclosed area with obstacles. 

In the fall semester of 2006, the JMU Physics & Astronomy Department debuted its Astronomy Park adjacent to the Physics & Chemistry building. JMU has constructed a platform with permanently mounted telescope piers for six 10" equatorially mounted Meade telescopes and one free-standing 14" Celestron telescope. All of these telescopes are outfitted with SBIG CCD cameras and a spectrometer. JMU offers public access or star parties utilizing these telescopes on the last Thursday of each month through the academic semester. If it is cloudy on that night, the following Saturday is used as a backup. You can visit the Planetarium website for more information on our next event!

The JMU Meteorite Collection was started in 2002 in order to have teaching specimens of meteorites for use in introductory astronomy classes. The initial collection contained a simple variety of meteorites including iron, stony, as well as stony-irons meteorites that mostly come from the asteroid belt. Today the collection has vastly expanded to include samples from known solar system objects including Mars, the Moon, as well as the asteroid 4-Vesta. There are additionally impact glasses as well as carbonaceous chondrites from various sites around the world. The collection now also includes several examples of pallasites which are stony-irons that contain beautiful Olivine crystals embedded in an iron matrix. Another notable specimen is the Augusta County meteorite that was found in neighboring Augusta County in 1858 and was eventually analyzed and mentioned in a 1904 Noble prize address.

The show pieces of the collection are two large iron meteorites. The Nantan meteorite weighs 644 pounds and was found in 1958 in Guangxi, China. The Nantan is located in the main meteorite collection which is in the lobby area of the John C. Wells planetarium located on the first floor of Miller hall located on East Grace Street. The other large iron is the Campo del Cielo meteorite located in the lobby of the Physics/Chemistry building located on the East side of campus on Carrier drive.

Everyone is encouraged to visit the meteorites at either location for a self-guided tour. The buildings are usually open during business hours unless there is a holiday. Note: The JMU meteorite collection staff does not certify, authenticate, or render any judgments on samples that individuals may possess. The JMU meteorite collection is maintained as a teaching and research resource that serves both the JMU community as well as the general public.

The John C. Wells Planetarium is a public planetarium that hosts a number of shows and events. If you'd like to learn more about the space and event offerings, visit the official planetarium website.

Demystifying the Expert, a show where comedians attempt to discover what a scientist does all day. Laugh and learn about cutting edge science & much more! Visit our website for information about our next show. 

This award originated in 2016 and is given annually to a high school physic teacher who exhibits exceptional dedication to teaching physics and student success. Nominations come from current JMU STEM majors who take physics courses in our department. To learn more about this award, nomination submissions, and past recipients, please visit the HS Physics Teacher of the Year website

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