Stargazers are invited to celebrate the dedication and actually use what is billed as the world's largest amateur telescope Saturday at the Stansbury Park Observatory Complex, which is operated by the Salt Lake Astronomical Society.
Astronomers will be celebrating the inauguration of the Clements Telescope and Kolob Observatory.
The event starts at 4 p.m. with a dedication ceremony featuring observatory complex director Rodger Fry and Dr. Anil Seth of the University of Utah Department of Physics and Astronomy.
After that, there will be time to mingle and chat with those responsible for the telescope and observatory.
A star party will feature the new Clements Telescope and three other large instruments operated by members of the society and housed at the complex. With cooperation from the weather, the star party will continue from dusk until midnight.
The new telescope was built by Salt Lake professional truck driver Mike Clements. It employs a spy satellite telescope mirror 70 inches across that weighs 900 pounds. These are at the bottom of the open-framework metal structure, which — when pointed horizontal — is three feet long, 11½ feet wide and 16 feet high. At the apex is a secondary mirror to reflect the starry view down to the eyepiece. The secondary is 24 inches in diameter, which by itself would make the main mirror in an amateur telescope much bigger than most.
The large iron-and-concrete building housing the telescope cost more than $70,000. The telescope is rolled in and out on a pallet jack.
Clements expressed relief and elation that his telescope is assembled at its new home, with the mirrors silver-coated and the observatory finished.
"The prime objective of the SPOC is public outreach that will allow our members to bring viewing the night sky to the population living in the Salt Lake Valley," said Fry. "This telescope has 36 times more light-gathering capability than the 32-inch telescope that has been at the observatory for the past 12 years. This allows views of galaxies that reveal their spiral arms more vividly and shows much greater detail of nebulas and of the planets."
The public can view the stars two Saturdays a month between March and October when the weather allows.
The observatory is about 30 miles west of Salt Lake City. To reach the site from the capital city, drive west on I-80 and get off the freeway at the Tooele-Grantsville turnoff, Exit 99. Go south on Utah 36; at the third traffic signal, turn right onto Stansbury Parkway. Continue west until the "Plaza" sign in the center median strip, and turn left onto Plaza. Park at the lot next to the skateboard park and walk to the observatory, which is west of the park (to the right as one faces the park).
— Tom Wharton