The committee planning the International Dark Sky Discovery Center for Fountain Hills will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 16, to unveil the architect’s plans for the facility.
The event, planned for 7 p.m. at the Community Center, will also be the major kick-off for the project fundraising campaign, according to International Dark Sky Discovery Center, Inc. President Joe Bill.
The proposed multi-functional, non-profit International Dark Sky Discovery Center (IDSDC) will be the only facility in the world to focus on dark sky preservation as a portal to better understanding astronomy, the space program, the universe and life on earth.
This approach will establish the IDSDC as an international centerpiece for supporting the growing worldwide interest in preserving dark skies and understanding that relationship to the well-being of humans, plants and animals.
Privately funded with an estimated cost of $17 million, the IDSDC is to be located in Fountain Hills and will fulfill a mission of science-based education and experiences that will support STEM programs and foster partnerships with Arizona State University and area community colleges and high schools.
The facility will also address a rapidly growing interest in astrotourism, serving as an attraction for Arizona and beyond.
The proposal for the 15,000 square-foot structure includes four major components: a dark sky observatory with a domed facility housing a large research-grade telescope with provisions for visual observing, astrophotography and live broadcasts. The proposal calls for a PlaneWave telescope with a 27.5-inch mirror.
A hyperspace planetarium will offer a state-of-the-art, tilted dome planetarium with immersive digital technology.
A theater with 150 tiered seats, auditorium, lecture hall with the latest 8K projection technology and sound systems are planned.
An “immersion zone” will be a 3,000 square-foot exhibit hall with interactive and engaging educational displays, traveling exhibits, virtual reality stations and a featured Dark Sky Immersion Experience.
Organizers refer to Fountain Hills as a dark sky oasis in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun, making it an ideal location for a planned facility. In 2018 Fountain Hills was designated as the 17th International Dark Sky Community in the world.
With the added rare distinction of being near a metropolitan area, this prestigious award generated widespread publicity nationally and in many parts of the world.
The facility will be located in the Town Center and be easily accessible to out-of-town visitors, situated near the Community Center, Community Garden and library/museum.
The uses for the facility are anticipated to be wide ranging with opportunities for all ages. Examples include working partnerships with other institutions, lectures, advanced placement courses, astronomy camps, lessons in astrophotography, exhibit competitions, video productions, star parties, tours, visits, receptions and more.
In support of the dark skies theme the community of Fountain Hills holds an annual Dark Sky Festival and monthly star parties. There will be a star party on the Centennial Plaza following the unveiling event, Oct. 16. Those attending should be able to view the rings of Saturn and moons of Jupiter. There will also be an astrophotography exhibit.
The public is invited to get its first peek at the facility planned for the downtown Cutillo Civic Plaza adjacent to the library.