The recent donation of a 36-inch diameter, 12-foot, 6-inch tall Dobsonian telescope is one of the exciting future projects and experiences at UNM-Taos. Big Give donations would help see to fruition the plans to build an observatory and outdoor amphitheater for what is the largest public-use telescope in New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado.
The purpose and value of the campus observatory are to provide engaging, hands-on experiences to students and community members of all ages; create a space to carry out observational studies and outreach activities; and educate students and the local community on the natural resource that is the night sky. This telescope will enable users to see the Virgo Cluster, for instance, some 65 million light-years away. The center of the Milky Way, and the black hole which sits there, is 25,800 light-years from Earth.
An observatory will house, protect and allow for UNM-Taos students, local K-12 students, and the public to use the large telescope. The proposed ADA-accessible observatory plans include a classroom, a deck around the observatory so people can bring their own telescopes and play with UNM-Taos’ “little scopes,” more adequate light shielding from campus and roads with the addition of a berm, and a 50-person capacity amphitheater/outdoor planetarium for presentations.
The plan includes placing the observatory behind the new Pathways building. An added path would run from the Pathways building to the observatory.
UNM-Taos Chancellor Dr. Mary Gutierrez has made a capital outlay request of the New Mexico Legislature for $1.3 million in funding to begin work on the observatory. The total cost of the project is over $3 million. UNM-Taos contributes 25% of the total cost.