Orange County astronomy buffs forced to trek to the desert or the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles to see the stars will be able see them from Fountain Valley when the first public telescope conservatory in the county is constructed next year at Mile Square Park.
The county Harbors, Beaches and Parks Commission, along with Orange County Astronomers, an amateur astronomy club, will break ground in February, 1991, for the $500,000 facility, which will include a classroom, an auditorium and audiovisual center. Construction is expected to take nine months.
The amateur astronomy club has worked out a permanent loan agreement with Rancho Santiago College for use of its 8-inch refractor telescope. The telescope’s black enamel exterior and some of the brass gears will be restored with a $1,000 donation by club member Harry Miller and a matching grant from his former employer, Rockwell International.
“Although its primary purpose is for the astronomers, we want to see (the conservatory) utilized for nature and astronomy studies by city groups, schools, and clubs,” said Denton Turner, design manager for the Harbors, Beaches and Parks Commission.
Making astronomy accessible to the public was one of the motives behind the club’s push to get the conservatory built at Mile Square Park, said Bob Gill, president of Orange County Astronomers and a part-time astronomy professor at Rancho Santiago.
The club is the largest amateur astronomy group in the country, with 560 members, Gill said. Photographs of celestial bodies taken by the club are featured in this month’s Discovery magazine.