New Eagle Mountain observatory aims to bring community closer to the stars

A rendering of a new observatory that will be constructed at Walden Park in Eagle Mountain. Construction is expected to begin in the fall and be completed by the end of the year or in early 2022.

A rendering of a new observatory that will be constructed at Walden Park in Eagle Mountain. Construction is expected to begin in the fall and be completed by the end of the year or in early 2022. (Utah Valley University)



EAGLE MOUNTAIN — Utah has emerged in recent years as sort of the world capital in terms of dark sky viewing.

That is, Utah's two dozen dark sky parks and places essentially top anywhere else on the map.

A new observatory coming to Eagle Mountain aims to continue Utah's fascination with the heavens above. Eagle Mountain, Utah Valley University and Facebook on Thursday announced they are working together to build a new observatory and stargazing park that will allow visitors to view the night sky and learn all about outer space.

The observatory, which will be located at Walden Park, 4322 N. Frontier Street, will be home to telescopes and educational workshops for K-12 students, university students and anyone in the general public interested in learning about astronomy. It'll be a place for people to view and learn about the stars, astronomical events and the galaxy.

"They can come here. They have a place to go to do some stargazing, learn about the skies as well as meet one another and get to know one another," said UVU President Astrid Tuminez. "The observatory in this park is not going to be a formal academic classroom. Instead, it's a community classroom. Once a month, our professors will be here to engage with the community, young and old. Anyone will be welcome. There will be some massive telescopes here, some expensive, wonderful telescopes."

Facebook, which announced earlier this month that the first phase of its Eagle Mountain data center is now up and running, provided Eagle Mountain and UVU $250,000 to put toward the new park. Construction on the project is expected to begin this fall with the anticipation that it will be ready to open by the end of the year or by the start of 2022, according to William Marks, Facebook's community development regional manager.

He added that the park will have multiple telescopes, with the largest about 20 inches in diameter and about five or six feet long.

"That is a really major piece of hardware that will be a centerpiece of the astronomy park," he said. "We'll still have small telescopes for the public to use and the astronomy club to use."

While the observatory will be open to the general public, it will also provide UVU astronomy students an additional observatory closer to home. Tuminez said most students currently travel to a field station at Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah for any stargazing and astronomy.

Not only will they not have to travel as far, but they'll also have an opportunity to engage with others in the community interested in the stars.

"I think part of what's going to be meaningful for our students is (they will) not just be using the observatory for themselves, but to be here and give back and engage with the community together with their professors," she said. "I think that's really an important part of a university education — that you're not just in the classroom or the lab but you're actually out in the community getting to know what we're all about, and what are the common interests that we share."

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