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 help see to fruition the plans to build the Space STEM Center (S-STEM Center) featuring an ADA-compliant 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 S-STEM Center 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, some 65 million light-years away, the center of the Milky Way and the black hole, which sits within it, is 25,800 light-years from Earth.
The heart of the center will be the observatory, which will be used to take advantage of the area’s dark sky to show planets, nebulae, star clusters and distant galaxies to UNM-Taos STEM students, K-12 students and visitors. Initially, thoughts were to construct a traditional dome observatory that people are most familiar with and while that style is better for research, it’s not the best for public viewing. A retractable roof observatory would better serve that purpose and is being explored.
At the proposed viewing deck, visitors will be shown images and details of celestial objects, which will then be pointed out in the night sky so they can more readily find them using any of the school’s telescopes.
The last major component of the center will be a multi-use space devoted to classes, public meetings, lectures and other activities.
The plan includes placing the observatory behind the new Pathways building. An added path would run from the Pathways building to the observatory.
Having recently received legislative support, UNM-Taos has begun meeting with architects and planners on the construction of the Space STEM Center.