206 White Street, Waterville, NY 13480
by Carol Higgins
Despite all the benefits of the Apollo Observatory, members eventually realized something was missing – the public. It was wonderful that members generously brought their telescopes to public events, but wouldn’t it be nice to have everyone stargaze through our Meade 16” telescope? The answer was yes, but only members could access the Apollo site because it was located on private property.
For years members searched the area for an alternate site, always with concerns about the prospects of purchasing land, installing electrical service, and all the other caretaking responsibilities of being a landowner. It was quite a dilemma.
The situation changed significantly in 2010, starting with a casual conversation between a couple of long-time MVAS members and the Library Director at the Waterville Public Library (WPL). The members explained the club was looking for a new site to house its telescope, and to host public stargazing events and programs. The imaginative Library Director listened intently, and soon ideas began to emerge from the group.
Collaborative discussions and planning continued over several months, and resulted in an innovative partnership between the MVAS and WPL. The WPL would construct the building on the grounds of the library, thanks to grants from the Edward Barton Trust and the New York State Department of Education Public Library Construction Fund, as well as numerous donations. MVAS would help during construction, move its Meade telescope and accessories to the site, and maintain a regular schedule of public stargazing and educational events.
A roll-off roof structure was selected to house a 20’ x 20’ telescope room, and a warm room where astronomers can remotely control the scope or take a break during cold upstate NY winters. Thanks to an unusually mild start to the winter, ground was broken December 20, 2011. The floor was poured and completed by January 11, 2012.
Construction began in earnest in April once the weather cleared, and continued into the fall. A shining example of community spirit and support, the project benefitted greatly from the help of many volunteers who gave generous hands-on assistance and in-kind contributions of equipment, and materials.
On November 17, 2012 the public was invited to the observatory’s “First Light Celebration.” The festivities began with a fun presentation about comets, followed by stargazing through the Meade telescope. As a bonus, the Leonid meteor shower put on a respectable show to top off the evening. This first event was a great success, and was well attended by over 100 people of all ages.
A formal dedication ceremony was held June 20, 2013. Over 125 people attended the grand event – complete with an ice cream social, and an enjoyable evening of stargazing under clear skies and mild weather conditions.
Since then, our collection of telescopes has grown. The club purchased and installed a second telescope – a 12-inch Astro-Tech Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph, especially suited for photographing planets, galaxies, and other deep sky objects. A third telescope was recently added thanks to another generous member – a Lunt solar telescope.
Explore, Dream, Discover. Individually, they are three simple words. Together, they describe the latest chapter in the rich history of the Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society, and its partnership with the Waterville Public Library. We hope you, your family and friends join us for our next exciting journey to the stars!