Adirondack Sky Center makes plans to become major viewing destination
By Gwendolyn Craig
In April 2024, parts of the Adirondacks will be ground zero for viewing a total eclipse of the sun. Seth McGowan has high hopes that a new, 16,000-square-foot AstroScience Center and planetarium in Tupper Lake will be open to the public for it.
McGowan is the vice president of the Adirondack Sky Center and Observatory, a nonprofit educational center above Little Wolf Pond in the Franklin County village. In 2014, the organization opened its roll-off roof building, which houses four telescopes. Now, the organization’s board is fundraising to bring in $15 million to finish building its astro-tourism destination.
To open in time for the 2024 solar eclipse might be “overly ambitious,” McGowan said, but the center nevertheless plans events for that day. In 2017, the Adirondacks and much of the United States saw a partial solar eclipse, but it has been decades, McGowan said, since the area has seen one in totality.
“That’s such a landmark event for this part of the country,” McGowan said.
The nonprofit organization run by volunteers has envisioned an interactive public observatory, planetarium and research telescope for years. The coronavirus pandemic caused the group to postpone some tasks. But it has gotten back on track and seeks some amended permits from the Adirondack Park Agency.
The APA is accepting public comments through Friday, Nov. 26 on the center’s application for a driveway extension, sidewalk and additional parking along North Little Wolf Road. The application also mentions construction of the AstroScience Center. As of Nov. 10, two people submitted comments on the project, one in favor and one from a concerned neighbor about their privacy. Application records show the center’s engineers have included more plantings to help buffer between properties.
Adirondack Sky Center
To submit a public comment to the APA, email Ariel Lynch at RPcomments@apa.ny.gov with the project ID 2021-0237 or mail them to P.O. Box 99, Ray Brook, NY 12977.
To learn more about the AstroScience Center and how to donate, go to https://www.adirondackskycenter.org/AstroScience-Center.
McGowan said the center is seeking grants and private donations to fund the construction of two new buildings. The AstroScience Center will have interactive exhibits and a planetarium with seats at 23.5-degrees “to match the Earth’s tilt and distributed so that all viewers enjoy good views,” according to planning documents. The planetarium will schedule shows throughout the day. The research telescope will be in a separate building intended for looking at deep space, McGowan said.
The center closed to the public during the height of the pandemic, but has since opened for the first and third Fridays of each month, weather dependent. McGowan said the center has opened for meteor showers and other cosmic events and by appointment.
McGowan extols this time of year, too, when Daylight Savings Time has ended and night comes sooner. The air is crisp and cold, making for better star-gazing than in summer’s humid air. The center recently hosted a group of 20 from New York City, visiting specifically for the bright night skies the Adirondack Park’s darkness offers.
“They were stunned,” McGowan said.
I love astronomy. Someday (night) I need to get out there before light pollution gets worse. But a long drive home in the dark for an old guy. Perhaps I’ll make it before Halley’s comet makes another run at the sun!
John Sheehan says
It is a real pleasure to see this organization and its wonderful observatory succeed. Whether it is educating visitors or hosting scientific research, it makes the Adirondacks culturally richer and immeasurably smarter. And it gives us all another reason to support wilderness — it protects much more than water quality and wildlife (as if that wasn’t enough). It allows Adirondackers to look directly into the heavens.