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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Volunteers rescue observatory from shutdown

    The Flandrau Science Center was in danger of closing down indefinitely until a group of volunteers stepped up to save the day … or night.

    The Flandrau’s Observatory will continue to be open to the public every Wednesday through Saturday from 7:00 p.m. until 10 p.m., and a team of volunteer experts awaits all who visit.

    The announcement comes after observatory officials determined that they would not be able to remain open after state budget cuts.

    Due to a group of volunteers, who consider closing down the science center ludicrous, the observatory will stay open to the public until further notice. The science center and planetarium will remain closed until further notice.

    “”I’m hoping the Tucson public will support some type of planetarium in the future,”” said Demosthenes “”Demo”” Galanos, a retired aerospace engineer and volunteer observatory manager. “”This is a city that is known for its astronomy and optics, and to not have a planetarium for the public to learn about the sky is totally insane.””

    “”The volunteers here are extremely high quality and have a wealth of knowledge they would like to share with the public,”” Galanos added.

    For many at the observatory, it is more than a job. It borders on a well-reasoned obsession, the volunteers said.

    “”I’m a retired engineer and I’ve been into this hobby since the 70s. I love getting the public excited about the night sky, aerospace and science, said David Acklam, a telescope operator and volunteer. “”This is the center of astronomy at the UA and this is the perfect place for people to come and say, ‘Look at the sky! Tell us about this!'””

    Taking part in the revival of the observatory was not a difficult decision, as sharing excitement with the public should be second nature to the center’s volunteers, said Alistair Symon, volunteer and telescope operator.

    “”I’ve always been into astronomy,”” Symon said. “”I like to share the excitement I’ve had with the public by doing this and by taking pictures of the sky and the stars and nebulas for my pleasure.””

    Despite the nationally well-known, valuable resource being on campus and available, the majority of people who visit are people from the surrounding Tucson area.

    “”The people we see here the most are home-schoolers, out of state people and out of country folks,”” Galanos said. “”The best ones are from South Korea, Japan and India. People from that part of the world have a great interest and a great tradition of astronomy.””

    “”We try to give images to help the public understand how different planets look, and we’re here to expand their understanding of what they are looking at,”” added Galanos.

    The volunteers encourage more students to visit this great resource, as well as Tucson citizens.

    “”If there is nothing on TV, come on down,”” Ackman said. “”Someone will be up here.””

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