Attendees to Carnegie Science Center's July 4th VIP Extravaganza were the first visitors to experience a newly upgraded Henry Buhl, Jr. Observatory, a dedicated astronomy education space, and a digital connection between the rooftop observatory and second floor planetarium.
Since opening in 1991, the Science Center's fifth floor had been used as storage space and the portal to the rooftop observatory, used most Friday and Saturday evenings for stargazing by both local astronomy groups and the public. A recent gift of more than $200,000 from Bob and Joan Peirce, of Sewickley, has allowed the Science Center to convert this unfinished storage area into a flexible astronomy space, offering private astronomy lessons to small groups, greater access to the Henry Buhl, Jr. Observatory, and space for additional public astronomy programming.
“Nearly every Friday and Saturday evening, the public has the opportunity to visit the observatory and see night sky objects in a way most people can't from their homes,” said John Radzilowicz, Carnegie Science Center Director of Visitor Experience and University of Pittsburgh astronomy instructor. “The upgrades to the Science Center's fifth floor, additions in the Buhl Observatory, and the new digital connection between the observatory and Buhl Digital Dome give us the ability to serve many more visitors.”
The Science Center's Observatory, featuring a 16-inch Meade LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, provides hands-on learning opportunities to complement the numerous astronomy programs offered in the Science Center's Buhl Digital Dome, a 150-seat, state-of-the-art, high-definition digital planetarium. New equipment added to the Observatory now allows Science Center staff to transmit live images from the rooftop telescope into the planetarium, offering many more the opportunity to see night sky objects through the observatory optics.
In February, nearly 100 visitors packed the Buhl Observatory and surrounding terrace to witness the full moon slowly disappear into near darkness in the only total lunar eclipse of 2008. Upgrades to the fifth floor space and the digital link between the observatory and Buhl Digital Dome now make it possible for nearly triple the number of visitors to share that same experience.
“The Buhl Observatory and fifth floor upgrades are just one component of our strategic plan to transform visitor experiences over the next several years,” said Ronald Baillie, Carnegie Science Center Chief Program Officer. “Over the past several years, we have focused greatly on expanding our astronomy programming with the addition of the Buhl Digital Dome and new planetarium shows. These new offerings, combined with roboworld™ and a new SportsWorks® opening in 2009, will offer our visitors new, exciting slate of state-of-the-art, hands-on exhibits and educational opportunities.”