Washington D.C. helps college observatory with $300,000

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Washington, D.C., is joining the effort to bring Carson City nearer to the heavens.

An appropriations bill passed in the U.S. Senate on Thursday includes $300,000 for the Jack C. Davis Observatory at Western Nevada Community College -- doubling the funds already raised.

"This is unbelievable," said Helaine Jesse, the college's vice president of institutional advancement. "The amount of equipment and type of equipment we can get is amazing."

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., requested the donation be included in the U.S. Department of Education's budget.

"This is a very worthy project that benefits students across Nevada," said Traci Scott, Ensign's spokeswoman. "The whole community is involved with this project and the senator wanted to support it 100 percent."

The observatory began as a 15-foot diameter dome, large enough to house one 16-inch telescope but, with donations from the community, plans have expanded to a 2,500-square-foot building with sliding track doors above three telescopes.

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

The project should be completed in time for fall classes.

The building will also house a weather station measuring temperatures, relative humidity and the current weather conditions will then be available on the Internet.

Jesse said the original budget was for $500,000 but the bill has brought the funds up to $600,000.

The additional money will be used to upgrade technology and update software at area schools to connect with the observatory to observe celestial patterns.

"This should mean better connectivity for students in rural areas who want to access the observatory via the Internet," said President Carol Lucey. "We are very happy about this bill."

The observatory, named for the college's first president, received a boost when astronaut Buzz Aldrin visited in April as a fund-raiser.

The observatory will serve not only the students at the college but will be open to the general public.

Private donations have also been made from Nevada Gaming Foundation for Educational Excellence, the Nevada Bell Foundation, Hershenow & Klippenstein Architects, the Builders Association of Western Nevada, the Cubix Corporation, the PolyPhaser Corporation, Harley-Davidson Financial Services, Comstock Automation and Andy Butti.


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