Officials with the Dudley Observatory and Museum of Science and Innovation plan to build a new observatory on the miSci campus to house an antique telescope and will launch a capital campaign early next year to pay for it.
The telescope, which is more than 100 years old, started its life as a research telescope with Dudley and was available to the public in Albany in the mid-1900s but has been in storage for many years.
The observatory and museum hope to bring the telescope — with the power to spot the rings of Saturn and the moons of Mars and vintage technology at its core — back to the public, pairing a chance to look deep into space with educational exhibits and programs.
“It means a lot to be able to look up at the sky; everyone has a different reaction to the vastness of space, all the things out there that you don’t see in your regular life,” said Heidi Newberg, chairwoman of the observatory board. “We want to be able to bring that back.”
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, helped secure a $20,000 state grant for the building project, presenting a check to museum and observatory officials Tuesday morning.
“There is no better learning than hands-on learning, and that’s worth investing in,” he said.
MiSci President Mac Sudduth said the capital campaign to raise money for the project would likely begin sometime “early next year.” But the museum and observatory are still working on the specifics of where the new observatory would be located and what type of dome it would have.
Newberg didn’t have specific details of the building project to make public Tuesday but said the final price tag would likely run in the “six figures.” The officials are considering either an addition to the museum or building a separate facility on the miSci campus.
Ultimately, the dome of the new observatory will need to have enough room for the telescope’s 16-foot-long tube. But, thanks to its timeless technology, the telescope won’t require an electrical hookup; its position is adjusted by gravity, not a motor.
“If we have a blackout, the telescope keeps tracking the stars,” said Dudley board member and Union College professor Francis Wilkin.
Once the new observatory is up and running, Sudduth said the museum would extend its hours into the night on certain days and would hold special events for days of particular astronomical interest.
Reach Gazette reporter Zachary Matson at 395-3120, [email protected] or @zacharydmatson on Twitter.
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