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Capital campaign launched for $15 million astroscience center

Dan McClelland

Capital campaign launched for $15 million astroscience center by Dan McClelland
Tupper Lake will be home to a second world-class museum and research center as early as five years from now, according to the newest campaign of the Adirondack Public Observatory.
This month the APO, with headquarters on High Street and its  roll-off roof observatory at its hilltop campus above Little Wolf Lake, is launching a five-year $15 million capital campaign to build its new state of the art astroscience center.
The fundraising campaign begins this month with $1.2 million the APO volunteers have raised for the  center to date.
The modern center is phase 2 of the APO project, and follows on the coattails, in a most grandiose fashion, of the building of the roll off roof observatory in  2011.  Phase 3 is a new $2 million research telescope in a building behind the new center- to be built later.
The astroscience center will be built at about the center of the APO campus, on the side of the existing hill.  Skip Lemieux Contracting and crew have this past week opened a second and lower road into the property off Big Wolf Road, and have marked out with flags the footprint of the new building for events there beginning today.
The new center will be open many afternoons throughout the year and offer many day-time programs and offerings.  It will also be open  several evenings each week for night-time viewing.  
Included in the center will be a modern planetarium- a giant movie theater of sorts with room-edge projectors, a screen across a domed ceiling and innovative seating for as many as 65 curious visitors to relax and enjoy the intricacies of the heavens.
APO President Carol Levy said recently there are many “sky shows” available for screening in planetariums across the country that will be offered for viewing in our planetarium.
People will be able to view the sky and all that it features in the various coming shows inside the planetarium and then go outside in the evening and observe it live, she noted during an interview last week.
The scientific building, which will provide 14,000 square foot of public space and 3,000 square feet of space for storage, mechanical rooms and offices in the basement, will also feature a large lecture hall, available for rent by local and area organizations.  The lecture hall will be home to various lectures, concerts and other events associated with the science of astronomy.
Included too will be an interactive classroom, where visitors of all ages can do what APO leaders are calling “self-guided hands-on activities” or take part in guided discussions.  Activities like robot-building and similar scientific experiments will be regular fare found there.
One of the exhibits the APO leaders are planning is a “build your own alien” machine, where people can push buttons to create their own planet and the type of inhabitant that could live there.  There will be selections for the size of a planet, its type of atmosphere, its temperature, its composition- and from that will come the type of plant or animal or alien that could live there.
“It will be about creating a new world, creating aliens who would occupy it, and how they would move and live,” said Ms. Levy.
“We hope to have an interactive component in every exhibit,” remarked APO Vice President Seth McGowan.
 There will also be space in the new building for conference rooms, which organizations and businesses can book for special sessions and large meetings.
It will be home to various changing exhibits designed to peak curiosities and excite people about the science. Astrophotography, including training, taking photo images with telescopes and processing will be regularly featured at the new exploration place in Tupper Lake.
To be called “The Adirondack Sky Center, it will be what has been described by the scientists at the National Academy of Sciences last year as “a hub for teaching and learning- inspiring a love of exploration beyond our world...”
“Building on the love of nature and wilderness nurtured by the Adirondacks, the Adirondack Sky Center will inspire and encourage the love and knowledge of the wonders of the universe through science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).”
The exhibits, lectures, hands-on activities and conferences inside the new center will provide materials and information to aid visitors in the understanding the breathtaking objects and processes being discovered by the science of astronomy, according to the institute.
“Outside, under the dark skies of the Adirondacks, lessons will come alive as visitors are guided to see, with their own eyes unaided, with binoculars and telescopes, and through visual simulations in the planetarium- across  the vast distances of space to objects that challenge our understanding and even our imagination.  The combination of low humidity, high altitude, and lack of light pollution provide ideal conditions for night sky viewing,” the scientists wrote.
The building will face south and in front of it will be parking in lots down the hill.
All exterior lighting, much of it landscape lighting,  will be dark sky compliant so not to interfere with sky viewing at the roll off roof observatory or the coming research telescope.
David Levy, a scientist who has given APO presentations a number of times in recent years, said of the coming project recently: “Formerly the Adirondack Public Observatory, the Adirondack Sky Center is revealing the treasure of the dark Adirondack skies. Over the last 15 years the sky center has evolved into a regionally recognized center for the observation and study of the cosmos, and has been growing its mission to provide quality educational experiences for people of all ages through the science, technology and history of astronomy.
“No science inspires as does astronomy. And the Adirondack night sky, the wilderness above, is simply spectacular!  It is the dark skies of the New York State's Adirondack Park that something unique is being crated: the Adirondack Sky Center and Observatory!”
The executive directors of the APO include Ms. Levy as president, Seth McGowan, vice president, Sandie Strader, secretary, Mark Moeller, treasurer and Alexander Crispo, member at large.
The board of trustees include: David Aguilar, Carole Barrett, Gib Brown, A. Wallace Everest, Jr., Kirk Gagnier, Jerry Hacker, Jim LaValley, Tom Lawson, Jeffrey Miller, Dr. Aileen O'Donoghue, the Rev. Rick Wilburn and Tom Wojtkowski.
Advisory board members are Art Cacciola, Tim Connelly, Jr., Barbara Grose, Linda Levy, Peter Litchfield, Susan Lawson, Bruce McClure, Nick Moeller and Kate Martin.