Residents Pursue Astronomical Observatory for Kanab

Guest: Rich Csenge, President of Stellar Vista Observatory

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“Up on the Colorado Plateau and away from major metropolitan areas in Utah and Arizona where light pollution makes viewing the stars quite challenging, the relative remoteness of Kanab is a great location for a public observatory.”
– Lee Ricci, Director, Southern Utah Space Foundation

The Wonders of Outer Space

How cool would it be to create a facility in Kanab, Utah, for students, residents and visitors to learn about the wonders of outer space, and to see, maybe even for the very first time, what’s really out there? Where a large and powerful telescope linked to a big screen could display images of distant star clusters and galaxies; where amateur and student astronomers could do cosmological research and deep sky photography; where children and adults could view the planets up close and personal and enjoy stories of the constellations in a comfortable outdoor amphitheater, specially designed for stargazing!

It’s an ambitious idea that a group of Kanab residents aims to bring to fruition: To design and raise funds to build and operate an astronomical observatory for public and educational use. “To witness the infinity, eternity and immortality of the physical universe is incredibly inspiring”, says Rich Csenge, president of the newly formed nonprofit Stellar Vista Observatory. “We are inviting folks with talents of all kinds to offer their capacities to help make our project successful”, says Csenge. Anyone interested in helping should contact Rich at richcsenge@gmail.com.

The Southern Utah Space Foundation

The Southern Utah Space Foundation (SUSF) based in Cedar City, Utah, is already engaged and the International Dark Sky Association has also offered assistance. SUSF’s Director Lee Ricci, is helping the Kanab group launch a multi-year fundraising campaign. The first of a series of star parties where the concept was initially introduced in December 2018 was hosted by the Kane County Water Conservancy District and fetched $5,000 in donations from the community!

“Up on the Colorado Plateau and away from major metropolitan areas in Utah and Arizona where light pollution makes viewing the stars quite challenging, the relative remoteness of Kanab is a great location for a public observatory”, says Lee. Kanab is the largest of three rural communities to date in the state of Utah that have enacted a night sky friendly outdoor lighting ordinance to protect the outstanding clarity of the Southern Utah night sky. With its full range of visitor services including B&B’s, hotels and restaurants, and close proximity to federally managed parks, forests, monuments and public lands, Kanab offers outstanding prospects as a home base for astro-tourists and retiring astronomers.

Act Locally, Think Regionally

Because so much of south-central Utah is federally managed land, the region around the City of Kanab is exceptionally dark. Grand Staircase-Escalante, Vermilion Cliffs, Pipe Spring and Grand Canyon Parashant National Monuments; North Kaibab National Forest and other State parks and BLM lands as well as the Kaibab Paiute Reservation, the world’s first International Dark Sky Nation, contribute no sky-glow. In 2017, the City of Kanab enacted a comprehensive outdoor lighting ordinance culminating a two-year effort led by local residents that will limit the glow from the rapidly growing community.

“Stars at night are such a wonderful part of our experience living in Kanab. What an honor to be the first to donate!”, said Stacy Grosz, co-owner, with her husband Wayne, of North Star Technical Service, a security systems company based in Kanab.

In the Early Stages

Now in early planning stages, the future Stellar Vista Observatory will serve residents, students and visitors to Kanab who value the magnificent view of planets, stars and deep space objects visible in the night skies over southern Utah. Three sites in and around Kanab are under consideration for locating the facility. The complex would include a building housing a primary telescope plus a range of portable scopes, classroom with digital connectivity to the main telescope, outdoor amphitheater for guided constellation viewing, bathrooms and parking. Visit the future Stellar Vista Observatory on Facebook.

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