Nevada Bell donates $25,000 to WNCC observatory

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You can't buy your way into heaven, but Nevada Bell donated $25,000 to bring it closer to Carson City.

"We're connecting to the stars," said Larry McBee, the external affairs manager for Nevada Bell. "We thought it was a neat fit."

The donation was a surprise announcement at a special breakfast Thursday morning to discuss the Jack C. Davis Observatory that will be built on the northwest corner of Western Nevada Community College.

"It's hard for me to take all this in," said Robert Collier, astronomy and physics professor at the college. "It's actually happening. We're building an observatory."

The college's first president, for whom the observatory was named, attended the breakfast.

"It's a privilege to be a part of the project that will come into being because of dozens of people contributing to make it happen," said Jack Davis.

He said he anticipates more donations.

"This is one of many donations that will come about because of the impact that the college has on this community and various other communities," Davis said.

Collier began dreaming about the project about five years ago. In January, the dream materialized when the Nevada Gaming Foundation for Educational Excellence donated $100,000 to the project.

"We liked the concept of a project that will not only help college students but that is good for the entire community," said Mike O'Callaghan, former governor and president of the gaming foundation. "The value of this money that is being spent today will even be greater 10 years from now because of the seeds it will sow."

The project started out as a 15-foot diameter dome, large enough to house one 16-inch telescope.

Plans have expanded to a 2,500-square-foot building with sliding track doors above three telescopes.

"By opening the roof, we're developing a new thing here," said Max Hershenow of Hershenow and Klippenstein Architects, who are donating their services to design the observatory. "We're really cutting edge."

The telescopes will include a 16-inch reflecting telescope, a 12-inch reflecting telescope and a 4-inch refracting telescope.

"We will be able to see deep-space objects that you would not believe," Collier said. "We will be able to see other galaxies."

However, Collier hopes to do more than just observe.

"Who knows, we could discover something right here," he said. "All things are possible when you're looking up into the heavens. The sky's the limit."

College President Carol Lucey said the observatory will foster enthusiasm about science.

"This will be an important step in really understanding science and how interesting it can be," Lucey said. "We should be able to capture the students' interest more."

The building will also house a weather station that will have temperatures, relative humidity and even a look at the weather conditions available on the Internet.

The observatory will serve be open to the general public as well as students at the college.

Helaine Jesse, vice president of institutional advancement of the college, said the college is working with the community to use less light at night so the stars are more visible.

The Builders Association of Western Nevada is helping with construction and materials.

Tom Metcalf, president of the association, is in charge of seeking donations and finding a construction company.

"My job is to help put the spread sheet together and twist arms," he said.

Jesse said there is a criteria to be able to make a donation.

"We ask people a qualifying question," Jesse said. "It's, 'Have you ever seen a star?'"


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