One Idaho Professor Wants To Bring Back Boise's Space Observatory

Sep 14, 2015

On top of the tallest academic building on the Boise State campus sits a large metal dome. It is an observatory that has been at the school for more than 35 years. At one point, the dome was a hive of activity, giving students and the public a chance to peer deep into our solar system. Now it sits mostly empty and unused, after years of neglect.

One man wants to change all that. Brian Jackson is an astronomer who teaches in the Boise State Physics Department. Before he came to Boise, he worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Come Monday he is starting a crowdfunding campaign in an effort to raise enough money to get the observatory back up and running.

“The Boise State Observatory was built back in 1977,” says Jackson. “We just have this really beautiful view of the surrounding city and of the night sky.”

He says at one point around 15 years ago, there was a break in and some equipment was stolen. The observatory fell into disuse. When Jackson arrived on campus, he starting working to restore the building.

Brian Jackson used to work for NASA. Now he wants to bring the stars back to the people of Boise.
Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

“Now is the time to refurbish the thing and get it up and running again, really start using it again for astronomy and public outreach.”

Jackson already has a good quality telescope. He needs to raise money for a mount to set up the telescope in the observatory. He wants to refurbish the building. And he’ll put in an internet connection so anyone can see what the telescope sees over the web.

“We’re going to be able to look at the moon; we’re going to be able to look at Jupiter. We’ll be able to see banding in the clouds on Jupiter,” says Jackson. “You’ll be able to make out the moons of Jupiter very clearly, you’ll see the rings of Saturn.”

He wants to use the observatory for research and also open it up to give the public a chance to look through the telescope during special events.

“When the observatory was running, there were people lined up down many flights of the Education Building, waiting hours just to peek through the telescope, so I think there’s a huge amount of support for this sort of thing in the city.”

Jackson has a month to raise $8,000 through BSU’s PonyUp campaign. The university will also contribute funding. The hope is to get the telescope up and running by next spring. Find out more about the campaign here.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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