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Historic observatory reopens

Felicia Skriver, The Clackamas Print
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Volume 45, Issue 24

The Rose City Astronomers make their way on to campus to open Haggart Observatory once again to gaze at the nighttime sky. The purpose of the agreement is to provide a space where beginners and pros alike may observe constellations while having an educational atmosphere to learn in. As of right now the only astronomy classes provided through Clackamas are taught by instructor James Dickinson in the science department.

"The Haggart Observatory offers a very 'hands on' and individualized experience to visitors," said Dickinson. "With the RCA taking over the public access programs at the Haggart Observatory, Clackamas County residents will once again have the chance to be wowed by the stars."

Haggart Observatory is the only one of its kind in the Portland Metro area according to Bill Briare, dean of arts and sciences. The agreement is meant to maximize the use of the building.

The Rose City Astronomers Club is a local non-profit organization that advocates for the study of astronomy. More than 300 members belong to the organization, making it one of the biggest amateur astronomy clubs in the country. The agreement between the two will last until December of 2013, and in the time span the RCA can open the dome to use the telescopes as well as the rest of the equipment in the building.

The observatory acquired its name after the builder Harold Haggart, a long-time Oregon City resident and devoted astronomer. He had originally built the observatory attached to his residence in 1948. However before his death in 1984, Haggart sold the observatory to the city of Portland. With the help of ELC Technologies, the club was able to relocate the dome to Oregon City and construct the 45-foot viewing deck that it sits upon today.

Since then the dome has gone through many repairs; employees and volunteers of Clackamas have also helped in maintaining the old observatory. Karen Halliday, a librarian here on campus was in charge of the facilities before it was closed a year ago. During an interview Halliday explained the procedures of the observatory. On a calm and clear night, volunteers of the observatory would open the dome by using a phone system. Eight people are let onto the viewing deck, while volunteers explain what constellations they were looking at.

"As far as I know, that observatory was only meant to look at cool things in the sky," said Halliday. "It's still a very cool resource to have."

The Rose City Astronomers also sponsor many star parties over the year where any astronomer is welcome to come and bring their own telescopes. The next one will be held on June 30 for the Summer Solstice Celebration at Rooster Rock State Park. There is a $5 parking fee, but the event itself is free. Any aspiring astronomer is welcome to come and enjoy the atmosphere.

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