Visitor Center

The Visitor Center has been designed andis uncer construction at the Dark Sky Observatory. Jenkins-Peer Architects, of Charlotte, provided the design and supervision services. Jenkins-Peer also designed Appalachian State's new Chemistry, Astronomy and Physics (CAP) building.

The Visitor Center will accommodate the needs of astronomers, students and the public. A large public area will allow display space for public and group nights, as well as a place for introductory lectures at student sessions. There is also a meeting room for retreat meetings of small groups.

The control room will provide a comfortable place for astronomers and their students to work as observations are under way (most modern astronomical observations do not require the observer to be right at the telescope). A large desk area will accommodate the various computer and camera displays necessary for research. The control room will be viewable from the public space through large windows. Along the bottom of the windows there will be a row of redundant monitors, allowing the public to look in on the images and control functions viewed by the astronomers. We will experiment with limited public access on nights where actual research is being carried out, allowing invited persons to walk in and look in on the evening's activities, as well as get a glimpse of the telescope itself through a window into the dome.

On monthly public nights the guests will walk through a connector hall to the dome, where they will be able to look through the telescope's eyepiece at celestial objects such as planets, the Moon, galaxies, and nebulae. A video preview will be available in the display area, which will also contain relevant displays of astronomical images and information.

If resources allow, we will provide facility tours during daylight hours of the summer tourist season, with student guides providing the tours. It is planned to incorporate a heliostat in the Visitor Center design, to allow an image of the Sun to be projected for public viewing. Eventually, the 16-inch public telescope will also be available for viewing bright stars and planets even in the daytime. Special groups may use the 16-inch during the evening as well, with student operators present, and other telescopes at DSO may be available on certain evenings.

It is anticipated that the cost of public access will become self-supporting, with modest revenues from donations, sale of souvenirs, and group-use fees for the 16-inch telescope.

View Visitor Center photos.