MOUNTAIN HOME, ID — Bruneau Dunes State Park dedicates its new observatory on Thursday, June 1, 2023, a celebration that also marks a quarter-century of astronomy programming at the park.
The new, state-of-the-art observatory features a rotating dome protecting the powerful telescope and providing an unobstructed view of the night sky. The telescope is a CDK700 made by PlaneWave Instruments, which features a 700-millimeter (27.56 inch) aperture that promises a vast improvement over the trusty scope in use for the past 25 years.
A short dedication will begin at 11 a.m. on June 1 to officially add the facility to the park. The new observatory sits near the existing observatory at the park, 27608 Sand Dunes Rd., in Mountain Home.
“We can now see farther and with more clarity than ever before,” park manager Bryce Bealba said. “This gives us a more powerful tool for our visitors to explore the universe.”
Besides enhanced optics, the scope has modern electronics that will allow video astronomy – composite images using multiple exposures that can show previously hidden astronomical features. Other new capabilities include off-site image projection, remote access for far-away partners, and the opportunity for future planetarium shows.
During the day or on evenings when clouds inhibit viewing, recorded images and animations can be projected onto the inside of the dome, accompanied by theater-level music and sound effects.
The state park said guests will be more comfortable in the new observatory, which is larger and air conditioned. The new observatory is also Americans with Disabilities Act accessible, and the new scope features a below-shoulder-high eyepiece, which alleviates viewing off of a ladder.
The first public show using the new scope is scheduled for June 16, allowing time to train staff on the equipment.
The cost of the observatory is $2.7 million, which includes the new building, telescope, parking lot, landscaping, pathway lighting, and planetarium equipment. Funding for the project came from Governor Brad Little’s Leading Idaho plan and was appropriated by the Idaho Legislature in 2022.