Astronaut to return for first light ceremony

In 1969 Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. Next week, he will wind his way through the rest of the planets on his way to the opening of the Jack C. Davis Observatory.

Crews on Friday installed the rock-sculpture planets that will form the walkway between Western Nevada Community College and the observatory.

"It looks beautiful," said Anne Hansen, spokeswoman for the college. "There's a real sense of peace there. It's going to be a wonderful place for people to recapture their souls while they ponder the stars."

The first light ceremony will coincide with a full lunar eclipse Thursday at 6 p.m.

Aldrin, who piloted the first successful trip to the moon, visited Carson City two years ago to help raise money for the observatory and will be back for the grand opening.

"I think it's wonderful that he's willing to return to Carson City to finish what he helped start," Hansen said. "I think it's appropriate."

And Aldrin's presence will add to the intrigue of the evening.

"We'll be able to watch the heavens with a man who's actually touched the stars and get his first-hand impression," Hansen said. "We'll be looking up and see with our own eyes what he saw."

Helaine Jesse, the college's vice president for institutional advancement, led fund-raising efforts for the project.

"What makes this project so special is that it is a local vision, inspired by our faculty, and built totally with community and statewide support," she said.

The 2,800 square-foot facility has two 16-inch and one 10-inch telescope. One is equipped with a spectrograph, which can collect data from the stars. Outside the building is a robo-dome with a fourth telescope for studying the sun.

Cameras inside the telescopes connect them to computers in the classroom and the computers are connected to large screens to allow entire classes to view the stars from their desks.

A Campbell Scientific research-grade weather station is installed outside the observatory. The solar-powered instrument will collect weather data and send it to the Desert Research Institute in Reno, where it will be analyzed and uploaded to the Internet.

Free tours will be held at the observatory Friday and Saturday nights and a lecture will be held there at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

If You Go:

What: First Light Ceremony

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Where: Sarah Winnemucca Hall at Western Nevada Community College

Cost: $100

What: Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

When: 4 p.m. Friday

Where: Jack C. Davis Observatory

Cost: Free


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