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Snow King Observatory Status from Summer 2015

Architecture design by Jakub Galczynski: JakubGalczynski.com

If you’ve ever visited us at one of our free programs, talked with us a bit on a stargazing tour, or even just clicked around this site a little, you know one of our major goals is to bring an observatory and planetarium to Jackson Hole. So how’s that going?

At the moment, there’s really only good news and better news! Our Executive Director, Samuel Singer, met with Max Chapman, the owner of both Snow King and Brooks Lake Lodge (the latter near Togwotee Pass), earlier this year to discuss just that. Chapman loved the idea so much, he worked in an observatory into his Phase II development plan for Snow King just before submitting it to the town and county! The plan was then approved to proceed, and right now, the proposed site is undergoing an impact study on the natural area. The entire study process should potentially last up to the summer of 2018. Assuming it passes, the observatory will shift into the planning phase, possibly taking up to another year. Once that’s complete, the construction will begin on Jackson Hole’s first observatory!

As of the initial planning stages, the proposed size of the mirror for the telescope that will be housed in the observatory will be a full meter wide, nearly double our massive 20" scope! This will allow for substantially better viewing of deep space objects. It will also have some enormous benefits to the community, such as having a completely new option for family activities after dark, while also encouraging scientific literacy and development through hands-on experience with astronomy. Kids growing up here in Jackson Hole are already blessed enough to live in such a rich natural environment, and now they’ll learn just how important the objects in the night sky are as well.

Of course we’ve been asked multiple times when talking about this, "Aren’t Jackson’s skies a little bright for an observatory on top of Snow King?" It is true that they are much brighter than they need to be, and that’s something we’re actually working with Town and County about right now, the developments in that area being enough for a completely separate blog post. Just know that we are making every effort to minimize the lighting in the area and everyone thus far has been very receptive. If you’d like to proactively and voluntarily make your house or business compliant with the new standards we’re hoping to establish, check out our Save Our Night Skies Campaign page for more information. By taking action, you’ll not only be making your property safer while at the same time saving money on energy, you’ll also be helping to restore a more natural night sky above Jackson, encouraging more people to look up after dark. In addition, it will also have a much less disruptive effect on the wildlife of our community.

Our hope is that by the time the observatory opens, we can decrease the amount of light that we’re emitting, which has unnecessarily skyrocketed in recent years. Alternatively though, before the observatory on top of Snow King is scheduled to open, there may be another in the area by then. Since Chapman also owns Brooks Lake Lodge, he’ll be installing one up there as well. This one will be a .7 meter scope (roughly 27 inches) and will be very far away from any light pollution. If you haven’t experienced the night skies up there, you’ll definitely need to make the trip up! The difference is astounding!

In the meantime, keep an eye on this site for any exciting updates and developments. These are exciting times indeed!

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Posted on 2015/09/03 by