Bruce County dark skies ideal for observatory


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With some of the darkest, star-lit skies in Ontario, the Institute for Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies’ (IOEES) 128 hectare property near Wiarton is a perfect spot for an astronomical observatory. 


On September 17 [2011], the IOEES  will celebrate the grand opening of the  E.S. Fox Observatory.  The observatory is a collaborative initiative of the Bluewater Astronomy Society (BAS), the Bluewater Education Foundation, and the Institute for Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies (part of the Bluewater District School Board).


Construction on the observatory began in October, 2010, and was completed in May, 2011.  The general contractor for the new facility was Domm Construction of Ayton, ON.

The observatory is named for its main benefactor, E.S. Fox Construction Ltd. of Niagara Falls.  E.S. Fox donated $75,000, as well as a great deal of pro bono work toward the construction project as part of the 75th anniversary of the company.  

The  observatory features a roll-back roof and drop-down wall which protect the main 12” Newtonian reflector telescope during the day and reveal the heavens at night.  The University of Guelph donated the telescope which is mounted on a special below-ground pier that provides a vibration-free mount for high-powered views of deep sky objects.  Many smaller telescopes are also stored and used at the facility.

A small warm-up/control room in the facility houses computer equipment that will connect to the main telescope and, eventually, we will have the ability to "beam" images of sky events out to astronomy enthusiasts over the internet.  

The observatory will be used on a regular basis by Bluewater students, as well as BAS club members.  BAS club members will hold open houses, astronomy seminars, and weekend courses for visitors and the general public.  They will also play an integral role in helping IOEES staff facilitate evening programs for students staying overnight at the IOEES as part of their school curriculum.  Astronomy is currently part of the grade 6 and 9 Ontario science curriculum.  

The final cost of the observatory facility is estimated to be close to $150,000.  Funds have been raised through E.S. Fox’s generous donation, along with donations from service clubs, unions and trade groups, businesses, private individual donors, and fund-raising events.  Continued community support of projects at the Institute for Outdoor Education would very much be appreciated.  

Spencer Fox, President of E.S. Fox Construction, will perform the ribbon cutting, along with other dignitaries on September 17 at 2:00 p.m. 


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Saturday, September 10, 2011