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Tom Weiland, president of the Twin City Amateur Astronomers, talks about the group’s new observatory at Sugar Grove Nature Center in Funks Grove. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph, Lori Ann Cook-Neisler)

Astronomy club opens Prairie Sky Observatory

October 07, 2013 at 08:44 AM

The Associated Press


FUNKS GROVE, Ill. (AP) — An amateur astronomy club in central Illinois is opening a new observatory to study the sky.

The Prairie Sky Observatory in McLean County, about 20 miles southwest of Bloomington, is operated by Twin City Amateur Astronomers, according to a report (http://bit.ly/16F0lYQ ) in The (Bloomington) Pantagraph.

The building has a roll-off roof and three telescopes, including a 20-inch reflecting model. It also has a control room where stargazers can look at images on a series of computer monitors that are captured by cameras on the telescopes.

The group also operates the Sugar Grove Observatory, a three-story observatory with a dome.

Tom Weiland, president of the club, said the group needed additional space after its membership grew and more people began showing an interest in studying astrophotography.

Tim Stone, an amateur astronomer and photographer who is the club's property manager, said he hopes the new observatory attracts more young people to science.

"Maybe we can get a future astronaut or Nobel Prize winner out of this," he said. "Ultimately, it's going to be a facility that gives us a common purpose of advancing knowledge of astronomy, computer skills and image-processing skills. It's a catalyst for curiosity."

Others see it as a chance to expose people who may be afraid of shelling out big bucks for fancy star-gazing gear.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for people to get exposure to equipment without spending a lot of money," said amateur astronomer Tony Cellini.

The telescopes in the new single-story observatory were donated by club members, who are leasing the building.

___

Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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