Construction begins on observatory

With bulldozers and backhoes, the college will set out today to bring the moon closer to Carson City.

More than two years after plans to build an observatory were announced, crews from Western Nevada Community College will begin clearing the land for construction around 11 this morning.

"We are just elated that we are going to be able to start the process," said spokeswoman Anne Hansen. "We have done many things to prepare for this and now it's finally going to happen."

The idea took shape in January 2000 with a $100,000 donation from the Nevada Gaming Association for Educational Excellence.

It has since grown to a million-dollar facility with five telescopes including one housed in a robodome to track the movement of the sun.

"The idea just caught on in the community," Hansen said. "People are really intrigued with the idea of an observatory and what it could mean to our young people."

The pinnacle of the fund-raising efforts came when astronaut Buzz Aldrin held an open house and presentation April 28, 2001.

Then an appropriations bill from the U.S. Senate kicked in $300,000.

"That took us from a really nice facility to one that is out of this world," said Helaine Jesse, dean of institutional advancement. "It's so awesome."

The observatory, named for the college's first president, Jack C. Davis, will serve not only the students at the college but students throughout the school district.

Software will be available allowing teachers to access the observatory from their classrooms, and eight telescopes will rotate through the schools.

Students enrolled in a heavy-equipment program at the college will use donated equipment to clear the ground in preparation for construction, saving the college about $40,000.

Private donations have also been made from the Nevada Bell Foundation, Hershenow & Klippenstein Architects, the Builders Association of Western Nevada, the PolyPhaser Corporation, Harley-Davidson Financial Services, Comstock Automation, Andy Butti, Bill and Virgie Miller as well as donated equipment and services.


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