Owl Observatory, our 12´ × 12´ roll-off roof facility at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, was dedicated on August 22, 1998. It was the culmination of nearly 30 years of dreaming and 5 years of actual planning, designing, and construction. The observatory’s original telescope, a homemade 10-inch Newtonian reflector on a massive fork mount, saw very little (if any) use.
A campaign to upgrade the observatory began in the spring of 2000. We took advantage of a partial solar eclipse that occurred on Christmas Day of that year and sold 1,000 pair of Eclipse Shades. The current telescope, a classic Meade 12-inch LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain, was installed in June 2001. Since that time thousands of people have viewed the wonders of the universe through the 12-inch and the observatory now sees regular use at our Public Observing Sessions.
If you have ever viewed through the 12-inch telescope then you know it has its problems. In fact, our Schmidt-Cassegrain exhibits every flaw of the design and it has only gotten worse with age! There is a great deal of flexure in the fork-mount and focusing can be very challenging. The telescope suffers from the worst case of image shift we have ever seen and once focus is achieved it promptly slips out of place.
Therefore, during its 20th anniversary, the KAS would like to announce a fund raiser to seriously upgrade Owl Observatory. The campaign begins with at last motorizing the roll-off roof and replacing the 12-inch telescope. Our equipment of choice is an Astro-Physics 1600GTO German Equatorial Mount (with a 200lb load capacity) and a Meade 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain. The 1600GTO mount will guarantee an ultra-stable platform and to avoid any possible focusing issues with the 16-inch we would lock the primary mirror in place and use a Starlight Instruments Feather Touch focuser (the best focuser on the market today). We will also purchase a suite of Tele Vue’s best eyepieces and deep sky filters from Thousand Oaks Optical. The price tag of this phase of the campaign is $35,000 - a fraction of the cost of the Remote Telescope Project and it would give us one of the premiere astronomical facilities in Michigan.
A second phase of the campaign would allow us to purchase a Tele Vue NP101 Apochromatic Refractor with a Coronado SolarMax III Hydrogen-Alpha Filter, as well as an SBIG STXL-16200 CCD Camera with all the necessary imaging filters. This phase of the campaign would cost approximately $21,000 which brings the total price tag of the project to about $56,000 - still less than half of what we raised for the remote telescope in Arizona.
Once achieved this new facility will help increase attendance at our Public Observing Sessions and encourage regular private use by KAS members. We will also double our efforts to make the observatory available for the Nature Center’s Summer Camp program and astronomy students at schools like the Kalamazoo Area Math & Science Center and Western Michigan University. This would give us the best of both worlds. We will have our premiere imaging and research facility in Arizona, but still have that direct connection with sky and telescope right here in Kalamazoo!
Please consider donating to the Owl Observatory Project today! Remember that the KAS is a non-profit organization. Your contributions are federally recognized as tax deductible per section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code.
You may also send a check or money order made payable to "KAS" to:
Kalamazoo Astronomical Society
600 West Vine, Suite 400
Kalamazoo, MI 49008