The Barton-Brown Observatory is an innovative public-private partnership between Waterville Public Library and the Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society, established in 2012. The Library constructed the building in which the Society houses its telescopes, other equipment and supplies. Permanently mounted in the observing room are the Society’s two, research grade telescopes– a 16-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain LX200GPS telescope relocated from its former home on Paris Hill, and a new, state-of-the-art 12-inch AstroTech Ritchey-Chrétien astrograph (especially suitable for photography).
Made possible by grants from the Edward Barton Trust and the New York State Department of Education Public Library Construction Fund, (and NO local tax dollars) the observatory building was constructed with generous hands-on assistance and in-kind contributions of materials and equipment from the Waterville Rotary Club, local businesses, tradesmen and artisans. Deserving special note are features by Steven Mackintosh (the solid cherry main entry door with antique brass hinges and inlaid phases of the moon), Gary Ford (twig ornamentation on the gantry beams and elm/hickory sunrise in the roof gable) and Annette Gurdo (Egyptian star field fresco on ceiling of porch, after the tombs of the Pharoahs).
Unlike the familiar rotating dome observatory configuration, the new building features a roll-off roof over its 20′ x 20′ telescope room,– one of the largest roll-off facilities in the US. The open ceiling allows for a multiple telescopes to be set up in addition to the two permanently mounted main scopes. A wide vista of the heavens is accessible to all observers in the room. An insulated “warm room” off the telescope room is provided where astronomers can take a break on cold nights and where equipment can be stored. Also on site are six concrete pads with electrical hookups where you can set up your own telescope and participate in group stargazing events.
In addition to its distinctive, made-to-order new home, the arrangements with WPL give the Society a public place and support facilities where it can host events. Besides operating and maintaining the equipment, the club will present regular astronomy programming– free and open to the public– for the greater Waterville community.
Society memberships are open to individuals and families at nominal annual dues. Along with its public programs, the club also conducts special meetings and events designed for members. The club is an active member of NASA’s NightSky Network and has access to a multitude of programming and materials offered by the space agency.
Society members can receive special training and, when qualified, can be cleared operate the roof and the big telescopes on their own. These qualified members have 24/7 access to the facility and can make reservations subject to availability when no public or club events are scheduled.
Watch WPL’s website and calendars for announcements of upcoming events!
Check the MVAS calendar for upcoming stargazing dates.