- Associated Press - Saturday, November 19, 2016

MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) - Experienced astronomy researchers and star gazing novices alike are now able to enjoy a new nighttime feature at Grand Vue Park.

Last week marked the park’s official partnership with the Near Earth Objects Foundation and the SMART Center of Wheeling for the creation of a public and astronomical observatory at the park.

According to SMART Center founder Robert Strong, the two educational nonprofits are working to establish public programs, along with astronomical research that a new observatory fueled by the purchase of a XX16g Telescope, located in a new building in the Aerial Adventure parking lot at Grand Vue.

Chevron donated $3,700 for the telescope purchase, while the SMART Center secured $1,200 for related equipment.

Grand Vue Park matched both the Chevron grant and SMART Center to purchase a 12×20 old hickory building with double barn doors to house the telescope.

Strong said the telescope will allow locals to see space as most never have before.

“It’s got a catalogue of over 42,000 objects that you can find in the sky,” he said. “The 16-inch mirror is going to increase the light gathering power of the unaided eye somewhere between 80 and 10,000 times. We’ll be bringing in a lot more light, so it will be like your pupil is 16 inches.”

Strong’s wife, Libby, who serves as programming coordinator for the center, said the telescope and corresponding star gazing activities to come, will benefit both the organizations and the park.

“This will be an extension of what we already do with an opportunity for a lot of folks to utilize a telescope of this size,” she said. “It will bring a lot of people to the park so they will benefit as well.”

Todd Hager, guest activities coordinator at Grand Vue Park, said the park is planning more astronomy related activities and additions to the building in the future.

“We’re hoping to add solar panels and LED lighting to the outside of the building so people can see what’s going on,” Hager said. ” We will have additions on the inside as well to make it a themed building.”

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Information from: The Intelligencer, https://www.theintelligencer.net

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