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Lake Afton Public Observatory To Re-Open This Weekend

Deborah Shaar

The Lake Afton Public Observatory is rolling back the dome and putting its 16-inch telescope back in action this weekend.

It’s the official re-opening of the Observatory under its new operators, the Kansas Astronomical Observers.

The facility closed a year ago, and the non-profit astronomy group took over operations about five months ago.

Observatory Director Harold Henderson says if the weather cooperates, people will get to see a lot in the night sky.

"We’ll look at the planet Saturn, and then probably a star cluster or two and possibly some binary stars," Henderson says.

Now that the Observatory is back open, the group will begin fundraising to update technology and exhibits at the facility.

Credit Deborah Shaar
Kansas Astronomical Observers member Harold Henderson

Henderson says one priority is to motorize the telescope mount because the current system is outdated and has limitations.

"We actually have to program the coordinates, every single night that we use it, for objects that move—anything in orbit around the sun," she says.

Henderson says they’re also planning to add virtual reality headsets in the exhibit room.

"So people can look at constellations and star patterns and objects that are viewable in the night sky – even though they are inside, even though it may be cloudy and rainy outside."

Also on the grounds is a “pad” located behind the Observatory for people to use their own telescopes and binoculars.

Wichita State University officials closed the Observatory last year because the low number of visitors in recent years couldn’t justify the operating costs.

The university operated the observatory for 34 years and agreed to leave the telescope and exhibits in place for the astronomy group.

Sedgwick County owns the property and buildings but isn’t charging rent. The county approved a two-year lease agreement with the group in July.

The Lake Afton Public Observatory will be open from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission cost is $8.00 for adults (13+), $4.00 for children (5-12) and children (under 5) are admission free.