Observatory gets new telescope
The Cameron Park Rotary Community Observatory will host a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony to recognize the donation of the new GenCorp Foundation telescope at 2 p.m. on April 10.
The Cameron Park Rotary Community Observatory is operated through a partnership between Folsom Lake College, the El Dorado County Office of Education and the Cameron Park Rotary Club. The observatory building was constructed and equipped in 2006 in celebration of Rotary International’s 100th anniversary. Rotarians donated hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars worth of equipment to the observatory construction. Since its dedication in 2006, the observatory has provided amazing views of the heavens to more than 26,000 students, community groups and individuals. No user has ever had to pay a fee to visit this major community asset.
The acquisition of a new, high-quality telescope and imaging system by the observatory has been made possible through a generous donation by the GenCorp Foundation (GenCorp is the parent company of world-famous technology leader Aerojet of Rancho Cordova.) The new equipment will provide unprecedented views of the heavens and educational opportunities for the general public, local students, and for visiting astronomers to the community observatory. Through the generosity of the GenCorp Foundation, Aerojet and its employees nationwide, the capabilities of the observatory have been greatly upgraded.
“We are tremendously excited by the acquisition of the GenCorp Telescope,” said Dale van Dam, dean of Instruction at Folsom Lake College. “We are grateful to have major regional employers like the GenCorp Foundation and Aerojet enhance the accessibility of science education for our community through this generous investment.”
In addition to the observatory operating partners, many community entities and individuals have participated in the creation and operation of this project. The Placerville Soroptimist Club also made a significant donation toward the purchase of the new imaging equipment. A previous donation by the Placerville Kiwanis Club made it possible to acquire a solar telescope. Private citizens donated money to purchase a powerful set of binoculars that have been enjoyed by observatory visitors.
In addition, the observatory is staffed by a dedicated group of knowledgeable local docents who are trained to operate the telescopes and related equipment. They are also able to share in detail the significance of observed images to visitors. The docents have contributed thousands of hours of their time to staff the observatory during operating hours and have also conducted their own training programs, spending many hours learning to operate the telescopes and ancillary equipment to be able to interpret the images that visitors see. Several docents also have donated funds to upgrade video cameras and screens to enhance accessibility to the telescope images.
“The community observatory has been a great example of how public-private partnerships can contribute positively to the life of a community,” said Dr. Vicki Barber, El Dorado County superintendent of Schools. “But the contribution of our dedicated docent staff is what brings the experience alive for our visitors. We know our docents will find ways to leverage the capability of the GenCorp Telescope to make the experience even more enjoyable for visitors.”
Given the observatory’s popularity and success, the Cameron Park Rotary Club has made further donations of time and materials to construct the G. Arthur Cort Sky Theater (a specially designed outside structure utilized to facilitate “naked eye” sky tours; dedicated in January 2011) and a local weather station (installed in January 2012). In addition to its onsite programs, observatory docents are also available to local public schools interested in solar viewing. Under this program, docents visit local schools with specially designed mobile telescopes that allow safe solar viewing. The trained docents ensure that each student uses the equipment safely and is aware of the risks of unprotected solar viewing.
The Cameron Park Rotary Community Observatory is located adjacent to the El Dorado Center of Folsom Lake College in Placerville, just off Green Valley Road. For more information visit www.communityobservatory.com.