Observatory at WNCC

Western Nevada Community College is aiming for the stars with plans to build an observatory on the Carson City campus.

WNCC Foundation Chairman Roger Sedway said Tuesday during a Builder's Association of Northern Nevada meeting that a $100,000 grant from the Nevada Gaming Foundation for Educational Excellence to build the observatory had been received.

"There is so much potential for learning and scientific discovery with this observatory," said Helaine Jesse, WNCC dean of institutional advancement. "We were ecstatic to learn about the gaming foundation's decision to fund this in full."

Local businesses have also volunteered to help advance the project.

Hershenow and Klippenstein will donate design services and the Builder's Association of Western Nevada will donate some of the construction work and materials.

"This is a great cooperative effort," Jesse said. "Both Hershenow and Klippenstein and BAWN are so supportive of education."

The plans for the design include a 16-inch telescope housed in a domed masonry building 20 feet by 30 feet.

A weather station will also be built inside. Both will be partially solar powered.

The observatory will not just benefit the college but will serve the community as a whole.

"The observatory will not only be designed to further our astronomy curriculum, but will give the community access to the observatory facilities on campus and through the Internet," said Robert Collier, professor of physics and astronomy and who co-wrote the grant.

He also said that all area schools will have access to the observatory.

"Area elementary and secondary schools, WNCC's outlying facilities and other University and Community College System of Nevada institutions will be able to use the observatory."

For example, Collier said that elementary school science teachers could communicate with the telescope via computer in their classrooms during the day. Students can observe findings over the Internet or teachers can bring them on campus to look through the telescope.

He said the observatory will also be open for public viewing at "star parties" to inform the public about celestial events.

Jesse said the observatory will be built behind the Cedar building with a wheelchair accessible ramp. Construction is planned to begin in April or May and completion is expected by this summer.


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