Public Access to the SJO
To reserve the SJO for a private star party, visit: https://tinyurl.com/smokeyjack
Construction and Dedication of the SJO
The SJO was designed and constructed in the spring and summer of 2015. The observatory is 12' by 12' with a retractable roof, and houses a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with computer guided pointing and tracking. It is located on the southwest corner of The Bluff, just below the grassy level of the park used for festivals.
The Smokey Jack Observatory was designed by Jim Bradburn and Charles Keyes. Due to the generosity of local merchants (Paul Wenke from Ace Hardware, Frank Oberlin from Critical Path Metal Works, and Kent Beach from Beach Ready Mix Concrete), all the construction materials have been donated-in-kind! Plus volunteers John Peleaux, construction leader with Mike Liebman, Bob Remington, Bob Tobin, Bob Huestis, and Jack Naff, did all the construction work. Wireless service to support telescope operation for the observatory is being provided by DD Wireless.
The observatory is named in honor of Suzanne B. Jack, known to all as Smokey Jack, the first Dark Skies President. Smokey and Bill Jack owned and operated the Texas Creek Ranch. Smokey loved the beautiful night skies of the Wet Mountain Valley, and she wanted others to be able to admire the Milky Way. In 1998 Smokey Jack organized a small group of concerned citizens to "...prevent light pollution through education." Under Smokey's able leadership, replacing one light at a time, Dark Skies had solicited enough donations to change all 45 streetlights in the Town of Westcliffe to dark sky friendly fixtures by August of 2001. Smokey Jack died of cancer in 2004 at the age of 58, but left behind a legacy of education about light pollution that continues to spread, protecting our pristine dark skies for future generations.
It's doubtful that the beautiful starry night sky as seen from the Wet Mountain Valley would have survived without Smokey's efforts.
After pouring the concrete slab earlier, the north and south walls go up by May 29, 2015.
East and west walls are erected by June 4 along with the rails for the roll-off roof.
The old barn wood siding is first applied to the north wall on June 7, 2015.
The observatory is operational for the lunar eclipse viewing party on September 27, 2015.
The observatory is located just off the The Bluff's southwest corner and down the slope so that it is mostly out of sight from Adams Blvd. It can only be reached by walking. See Google Maps for directions: https://goo.gl/maps/6dUJmeJE5Nw.
The observatory as viewed from the Cliff Lanes' Weatherbug.com webcam at:
The observatory was formally dedicated on the night of Friday, November 13, 2015, with over 100 people attending. A short star party followed under near perfect skies except for sub-freezing temps.
The SJO dedication story in the Wet Mountain Tribune in the November 19, 2015 edition.
Tutorial Videos on basic astronomy and how to conduct a star party:
Astronomy video series on YouTube: Crash Course Astronomy
How to conduct an entertaining and educational star party:
Star party video notes in PDF format: click here.