The Dudley Observatory, created back in 1856 in what was called Goat Hill, will soon have a new home in Schenectady’s Nott Terrace Heights.
Headquartered at miSci since 2015, the Dudley Observatory will remain under the miSci umbrella. What will change, however, is that the observatory will be housed in its own building on the miSci grounds in downtown Schenectady, and will include a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrainian telescope and a removable roof for viewing the night sky.
Officials had a ground-breaking ceremony Friday to announce the new building, and when it opens later this summer it will mark the first time in 40 years that the observatory will return to its original status as a public observatory.
“The Dudley Observatory has been an academic hub for astronomy in the Capital Region for 160 years,” said Dudley Observatory Board President Heidi Newberg in a press statement. “This new observatory building has been made possible by our partnership with miSci, which has enabled us to reduce administrative costs and shift focus to connecting the public to the wonders of the universe.”
The new building, located just adjacent to miSci, will be a modern roll-top observatory measuring 16 by 20 feet. The roof of the building rolls off onto a trellis, exposing the entire building to the sky. Construction begins Sunday, and a grand opening celebration is scheduled for July 27.
“The addition of the Dudley Observatory’s telescope to miSci profoundly broadens our educational offerings and establishes miSci as a nationally unique center of learning that boasts a planetarium, observatory and Challenger Learning Center all under the same roof right here in Schenectady,” said miSci President Gina C. Gould in a press statement. “This is truly a momentous moment.”
Once fully installed, the Dudley Observatory will be open to the public and access will be included with miSci admission. The observatory is expected to be ready for viewing of the “Mars at Opposition” astronomical event in July, and eventually will have regular day and evening hours. The construction and installation of the observatory was made possible by nearly $100,000 in funding provided from a combination of public and private sources. However, the project represents only the first phase of a multi-phase initiative that includes expansion of the miSci campus and the Vale Park Expansion Project.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, was at Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony and hailed the new observatory as another plus for Schenectady and the entire area.
“The grant funding secured from my office will help revitalize the Dudley Observatory and strengthen miSci as a regional premier science museum, community asset, and significant resource for Capital Region residents,” he said. “With this investment, I see this observatory as another addition to the growing list of destinations here in the Electric City.”
After its creation in Albany, the Dudley Observatory was temporarily shut down in 1873. It was reopened just three years later in 1876, and in 1893 the facility was moved to South Lake Avenue in Albany. In 1963 that building was sold and the observatory moved to Fuller Road in Albany.
“For a while it managed some radio telescopes up in Lake George, but then it stopped being a real observatory and more of an educational thing and moved into a home in the GE Realty Plot,” said miSci Director of Collections and Archives Chris Hunter. “The artifacts, papers, books and journals were moved into storage at Schaffer Heights and spent about 15 years there before coming to us.
“This is really exciting,” continued Hunter. “It’s another piece of the puzzle our astronomer, Valerie Rapson, can put together with the Challenger Learning Center and the Suits-Bueche Planetarium. There’s no place in New York that has all three, and very few in the entire country.”
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