Our Astronomy Education Center
The N.A.A. has spent the last several years developing the N.A.A. Astronomy Education Center (AEC) located at the Naperville Springbrook Water Reclamation plant. (Map) The AEC consists of two major components: the Glen D. Riley Observatory and the DuPage Valley Observatory. See below for additional information about the AEC observatories.
In return for the use of the City's land, and the security it provides to our facility, we provide regular opportunities for the public to visit us. Thousands of visitors, young and old, have had chances to view the wonders of the heavens through the facility's main telescope and many portables out on the lawns as our guests.
The Glen D. Riley Observatory
The N.A.A. has operated the Glen D. Riley Observatory (GDRO) since the club built it in 1973. The observatory has been an anchor for the club in all the years since, and the focus of many club activities, both public and private.
Over the years, the observatory has not stood still. First, in 1990, the observatory was relocated to an one area provided at the Naperville Springbrook Water Reclamation plant and the small, 10' diameter building was replaced by a larger one, allowing larger groups to be served, as well as providing storage and warm-up space. Then, in 2006, the GDRO was moved to another area at the Springbrook plant where it was colocated with our new DuPage Valley Observatory (see below).
The main telescope in the Riley Observatory is a 10" f5.5 Newtonian Reflector on a German Equatorial mounting. While this size telescope is not "huge" by today's standards in amateur astronomy, it is big enough to provide fine views of many types of celestial objects, while being of a size that people of most sizes and experience levels can learn to operate.
Besides the dome room where the telescope is located, the GDRO also has a front room that is currently being converted into our educational exhibits area. In this room, one can see our home galaxy, the Milky Way and examples of various sights one can see in the night sky. Additionally, we'll be adding a model of the Solar System and live video images from our DuPage Valley Observatory.
The DuPage Valley Observatory
The N.A.A. has now completed the second phase in the development of the AEC - the DuPage Valley Observatory (DVO). In 1999, the club decided to undertake the creation of an addition to the Riley Observatory, to house a second fixed telescope to use for digital imaging, to create a permanent home for the club's large library, and provide more space for public events. After delays related to everything from zoning issues to the events of September 11, 2001, we were finally able to start building the DVO in 2002 and and became operational in October 2007. A dedication ceremony was held on October 20, 2007.
The new DVO structure has been equipped with a custom-built 12.5" Newtonian, which is being outfitted for video astrophotography, enabling us to provide live images of astronomical events and objects for our visitors to view on monitors as a group. It is housed under the modified "roll-off roof" section of the building. The front room of the DVO building is climate controlled, for proper storage of the club library and other equipment.
The construction work for the project was done by club members. Members continue to seek outside support for the project in the form of donations of funds, materials and supplies. The Naperville Jaycees made a generous donation towards the project, and the City of Naperville Water and Wastewater Utility Department has been very supportive.
We expect the continued development of the Astronomy Education Center to be a great aid to us in our goal of helping the people of our area learn about astronomy, science, and nature. While the nighttime skyglow of Chicagoland has increased tremendously since we built the first Glen D. Riley Observatory in 1973, we are still able to get some decent views from our site; its location is also accessible in a practical way to our membership and the "public".
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