Observatory planned for Chester park
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | February 28,2013
CHESTER — Plans for an observatory at the Pinnacle recreational area may be up and running by spring, according to local astronomers and town officials.
Town Manager David Pisha said the town and the Southern Vermont Astronomy Group are working out the details to install an observatory with a telescope for public outreach and educational purposes. The observatory will be equipped with a roll-off roof that will hold as many as six people and will be renovated upon Select Board approval.
Pisha is optimistic that the observatory will open in a matter of months.
He said members of the board think it would be a great addition to Chester and to the recreation area.
The momentum for adding an observatory began last fall when SoVerA obtained the telescope from a New Hampshire astronomer. When members of SoVerA went to the man’s house, he donated his observatory as well.
“Alfred Bertin is 90 years old and is very active in astronomy. He had an observatory and enjoyed it tremendously and wanted to make sure it would be used,” SoVerA President Claudio Veliz said. “The skies are very nice in Chester. It’s going to be very accessible to the community and as well as the region.”
In the coming weeks SoVerA and the town will discuss a proposed plan for the observatory. Although a formal agreement has not been reached yet, talks suggest the town would own the observatory and SoVerA would be responsible for maintenance and financial responsibilities.
If approved, SoVerA said they would pay up to $7,000 in renovations. Veliz said the money would be used to improve ventilation space and install a standing seam roof for heating efficiency.
The observatory would also be used for academic research purposes and will include computer space and other digital equipment associated with astronomy.
Veliz acknowledges they still have a way to go in making it happen but he maintains the new observatory will benefit the community and bring more people to Chester.
He expects the observatory to be busy in November when Comet ISON, named after the Russia-based International Scientific Optical Network, is expected to come into view.
“Comet ISON has the potential to be one of the brightest comets seen in many generations. It could be sufficiently bright to be visible in daytime but it’s still too early to predict. We will have a better idea come November,” he said.
SoVerA was formed in 2011 and now has up to 50 members. The group collaborates with other local astronomy organizations and telescope makers, such as Stellafane in Springfield. SoVerA also established a telescope loan program with the Whiting Library in Chester.
For more information visit www.sovera.org.