Press-Republican

September 3, 2013

Adirondack Public Observatory busy star-gazing

By KIM SMITH DEDAM Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — TUPPER LAKE — The Adirondack Public Observatory is now in full operation, welcoming all star-gazers.

Some finishing construction touches are still in progress. But the nonprofit group of citizen astronomers has largely completed the observatory building on Big Wolf Road here.

The telescopes were installed over the summer.

THREE TELESCOPES IN PLACE

Carol Levy is vice president of the Adirondack Public Observatory Board of Directors. She said they have welcomed scores of visitors already.

“A lot happened over the summer. We mounted three of our telescopes. We have a fourth still to be mounted.

“We stargaze on the first and third Friday of the month, rain or shine,” Levy said.

“But we’re up there almost every clear night. Anyone interested in coming up can call the office here if they want to check.”

The Adirondack Public Observatory, or APO as it’s called locally, will host a grand opening at some point in the not too distant future, Levy said.

“The handicapped-accessible areas have to be finished by the contractor; then we can have a grand opening.”

There is a fair bit of work going on, completing Phase 1 of the three-phase project.

‘SPECTACULAR’ SIGHTS

“We’ve had tons of people, several large groups, people from Long Island, people from Australia, the Girl Scout Leaders of Northeastern New York — they have a conference center in Lake Clear every summer where we’ve made presentations, but this year they came here.”

Levy said stars, constellations, meteors and comets have kept many people gazing skyward at night in Tupper Lake.

“We were looking at Saturn earlier this year; we’ve been watching the summer constellations move, the Milky Way — when it’s dark, it’s spectacular. When there is a full moon, we watch the moon.

‘We had quite a large gathering for the Perseid Meteor Shower; that was a lot of fun.”

“The constellations are constantly changing, the planets are constantly changing. Whatever is in the sky, we’re watching.”

COMET ISON

The amateur astronomers are waiting with hopes high for a spectacular event later this fall.

“A very visible comet, Ison, is heading toward the sun,” Levy said.

“If the brightness continues, it will definitely be a naked-eye object by November. We have our fingers crossed. We’re excited about that.”

TOURISM, EDUCATION

That observatory puts a new tourism draw in Tupper Lake.

It also provides a regional educational center, one with a major local benefit.

“It’s not only stargazing; Gordy Duval teaches an astronomy class at the high school,” Levy said. “And we do an after-school astronomy class where we teach the kids how to use telescopes and bring them to the observatory on the last day.”

The facility hosts night-sky lectures, often in conjunction with the Wild Center, also in Tupper Lake.

FUTURE PLANS

The Adirondack Public Observatory is still raising funds to finish its long-term plan with several facilities in the works.

“We are in the process of finishing up Phase 1 of three phases,” Levy said. “This building is the first phase.

“The second and third phases will be concurrent, we think, and will consist of installation of a research-grade telescope — a 24-inch reflector, which is larger than amateurs have in their back yard.

“And then we will build an astro-science center that will house offices, a classroom, a museum, a gift shop and eventually a planetarium.”

The observatory will remain open through the winter. The site occupies about four acres on Big Wolf Road, past the campsites and the Tupper Lake beach.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com

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TO LEARN MORE

The Adirondack Public Observatory has a new Facebook page with photographs and updates documenting progress this summer. It is online at: http://is.gd/ZpvYvo

The nonprofit group of citizen astronomers also has a website at: apobservatory.org The telephone number is 359-3538.

 UPCOMING EVENT

Dr. Noel Richardson, Centre de Recherche en Astrophysique du Québec fellow at the University of Montreal, will present a lecture germane to the ongoing observatory work. 

The discussion, "Small Telescopes, Big Science," focuses on how amateur astronomers are shaping the research of professionals. It will be held at the Wild Center from 7 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, and is open and free to the public.