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Community to Get Sneak Peek at Newly Constructed Observatory Near Camp Coffman

Thursday, August 9, 2018 @ 12:08 AM

Posted by exploreClarion


CRANBERRY, Pa. – Today, more than 80% of people in the world cannot step into their back yard, gaze at the heavens, and see the Milky Way? However, in our region we continue to be blessed with a dark night sky, where “kids” of all ages can look up and wonder about space and the universe we live in, and it’s about to get even better.

While the newly constructed Oil Region Astronomy Learning Center will not be fully complete and operational until sometime this fall, ORAS will kick off ASTROBLAST 2018 by opening the facility and telescopes for a public preview on Thursday, August 9 from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM.

The Open House will feature Tiffany Stone Wolbrecht, Planetarium Lecturer at Ward Beecher Planetarium at Youngstown State University. Ms. Wolbrecht’s talk titled “What’s Up” will take the audience on a tour of they can see in the night sky throughout the month of August.

In addition, tours of the new Observatory will be offered starting at 7:00 PM, and weather permitting, observing through the new massive 30 inch telescope will begin at 9:00 PM. Thursday evening activities are free and open to the general public. ORAS’s star party, ASTROBLAST 2018 will take place in the days that follow August 9 – 13. ASTROBLAST is open to those registered for the event.

The new facility is located 4249 Camp Coffman Rd., Cranberry, Pa. near the border of Clarion and Venango County.

For more information about ORAS and ASTROBLAST, or to get directions to the new Observatory, please visit www.oras.org.

More About the Oil Region Astronomy Learning Center

Soon, the region will have an amazing new window into the universe. Thanks to financial support from the Elizabeth S. Black Charitable Trust (PNC Bank, trustee), Thomas Keating Trust, John Nesbit Rees and Sarah Henne Rees Charitable Foundation, donation of land from local resident Rod Bedow, and contributions of materials and labor from Swartfager Welding, Inc., Third Millenium Architects, Clint Brown Sons and numerous other community members and organizations, the Oil Region Astronomy Learning Center is nearly completed.

Local Farmer Butch Kapp unloads the track system for the new observatory’s roll-off roof. The track system was designed by Third Millenium Architects, and produced and donated by Swartfager Welding, Inc.

The new facility’s 10-acre field opens to a magnificent star-filled night sky, and features a roll-off roof observatory with a new 30-inch diameter telescope for visual observing and two smaller 14-inch telescopes for imaging, and a separate multi-purpose building including a small classroom, restroom and shower, and workshop area. The 30-inch telescope (photo left) is one of the largest available for public observing in all of Pennsylvania, and will offer views of planets and distant galaxies that are 10,000 times brighter than what we can see with the naked eye.

ORAS President Tim Spuck and Board Member John Karian had an opportunity to look through the telescope during early testing. Karian, a long time amateur astronomer, described the experience as “spiritual and a seminal moment in his 30 years as an amateur astronomer.”

Spuck says, “In my 25+ years looking through telescopes, I’ve never seen anything like it with my own eyes. You can actually see vivid detail in the spiral arms in the Whirlpool Galaxy.”

observatory-1

Longtime ORAS member John O’Hara believes the new observatory will be an asset to schools in the region. He states, “Economically, our region has many challenges and that impacts local schools. The new observatory can provide a unique opportunity to inspire learning and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).” At a time when our nation struggles to remain competitive in science and technology, studies have shown that astronomy can be a powerful tool to motivate children to consider careers in these fields. Astronomy inspires the imagination, and it causes young learners to want to know more. That spark can lead a child to a lifelong career in a science and engineering related field, and in doing so, can help ensure the U.S. maintains a competitive edge globally.

ORAS Secretary Marianne Hooker and Board Member Mike Anderton point to the project as an opportunity to bring the community together.

“This was a great opportunity to be part of something bigger than myself and to help bring about a community resource that makes the region a little bit more interesting and better place to live,” said Anderton.

Hooker comments, “I find it very satisfying to take part in creating a permanent local site for stargazing, one that will offer full access to our magnificent dark skies.” ”

All of those involved in the project agree that it was the community that made the new Astronomy Learning Center possible.

The new facility replaces the Oil Region Astronomical Observatory that was located in Two Mile Run County Park. In a lease buyout agreement between ORAS and the County of Venango some initial funds for construction of the new facility were secured and the Observatory at Two Mile closed in January 2015. The Astronomy Learning Center has been under construction since that date.


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