Fund Raising Campaign Begins For Astro-Science Center In Adirondacks

Aug 9, 2018

A capital campaign is beginning and an open house is being held on Friday to illustrate plans to build an astro-science center in the center of the Adirondacks.

The Adirondack Public Observatory – which is changing its name to the Adirondack Sky Center – holds weekly stargazing events at its observatory in Tupper Lake.  A capital campaign has been launched to raise $15 million to build an astro-science center.

Tupper Lake is considered a Dark Skies area where light pollution is minimal.  Sky Center Board President Carol Levy says there is currently one building on the property – an observatory with four permanently mounted telescopes and several portable telescopes.  They want to build a 14,000-square foot astro-science center.  “The main reason is we’re in the center of the Adirondack Park and we have dark skies. Dark skies are rare.  Most areas there’s some form of light pollution that interferes with being able to see the sky. Many people in the Northeast have never even seen the Milky Way. You can see the Milky Way here in Tupper Lake at the Observatory very clearly. You can see the separations in the Milky Way. You can see stars that go down to a 6 magnitude which is quite a dim star with the naked eye. You can see quite a lot.”

The Sky Center is moving into the third phase of a multi-phase plan to create the astro-science center.  Tupper Lake Central School District Superintendent Seth McGowan is Vice President of the Sky Center’s Board.  He notes there are several board members from universities and the new facility could be beneficial for the region’s students.  “What I see happening is that we can develop programs between us and other major universities for our own students right here in the Tupper Lake community. And and I guess that does speak a little bit regionally because we could do the same thing for schools within our region. But those connections with major colleges and universities who want to use our facilities, the telescopes that we have and the research capabilities that we have, would create a conduit for students here in Tupper Lake and connect them directly to those colleges and universities.”

St. Lawrence University Astronomer and Physics Laboratory Coordinator Jeffrey Miller, a board member, is giving a lecture during Friday’s open house on the Perseid meteor shower. He is excited about the potential for the new astro-science center.  “We will have a research-grade telescope there. I think we’re planning something on the order of a 22 – 24 inch telescope.  That’s a pretty good sized telescope. And with the technology that’s available we can actually control the telescope either on-site or remotely. And so that would mean that at St. Lawrence we could have students who are doing research, collecting data with the telescope, they could either travel down to Tupper Lake or even operate the telescope right from campus. And that would just provide a greater opportunity for students to become engaged in research.”

The facility isn’t just for scientists and students.  Miller calls astronomy the most approachable science and Carol Levy finds most people are curious about the sky.  "There’s a curiosity about what’s overhead. And then when you have the dark skies and you can actually see so many things.  I mean you see bright objects and you can see different colors and some of them move from week to week and some of them don’t and sometimes you see satellites.  I think there’s a curiosity about astronomy. We call it the wilderness above.”

Organizers hope to reach the fundraising goal and begin construction within five years.