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"The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible."

– Albert Einstein

Palisades-Dows OBSERVATORY's Astronomical Buildings and Instruments

 

 
Boler & Chivens 24-inch telecsope

Former CAA president Doug Slauson at the controls of the 24-inch Boller & Chivens telescope. See our facilities construction page for more information on the construction of the EIOLC.

 

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the premier public astronomy site in Iowa!

WE STILL NEED YOUR HELP!

Although the initial funding goal has been met, additional funding opportunities still exist. Donations payable to the Cedar Amateur Astronomers, Inc., may be mailed to:

Cedar Amateur Astronomers, Inc.
P.O. Box 10786
Cedar Rapids, IA 52410

Full-color brochure (1.8MB pdf).

Thank you for your support!

The centerpiece of this new astronomical facility, is a powerful and valuable research telescope built by the Boller & Chivens division of Perkin-Elmer Corp. The cassegrain telescope has a 24-inch mirror and was originally operated at The University of Iowa’s Hills Observatory for over 30 years and donated to the Cedar Amateur Astronomers Club, who operate the Palisades-Dows Observatory.

The CAA was honored that Professor James A. Van Allen, the Regents Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Iowa had graciously agreed to serve as the Honorary Chair of the EIOLC Committee.

 

BACKGROUND

In 2003, The University of Iowa—through the efforts of Professor Steven Spangler and others in the Department of Physics and Astronomy—donated the telescope to the CAA. In consultation with UI personnel, society members organized, planned, documented, disassembled and successfully moved this superb 2 ton, 9-foot long instrument to a secure location. The telescope was then refurbished by CAA members during the fall of 2007 and during the winter of 2007-2008 was reassembled and wired.  The telescope has been successfully installed in the EIOLC. This telescope has an estimated value of over $250,000.

The Palisades-Dows site had only electricity and two small buildings housing telescopes and associated equipment. There were no indoor classroom facilities, running water or indoor restrooms, and little protection from the weather for groups of people. In order to support the growing public interest in astronomy, our outreach programs require a larger, family-friendly observatory, classroom and presentation facilities.

 

PLANNED FACILITIES

EIOLC in August 2007
Exterior view of observatory building as it appeared in August 2007.

A new 4600 sq. ft. facility was proposed to support the growing community interest in astronomy. It consists of two observatory domes, a classroom, multi-purpose presentation room, computer control room, library, storage, and restrooms. The domes will house the superb Boller & Chivens telescope, and a “Robotic” Meade telescope with a 16-inch mirror set up for remote imaging.

This new facility is located at the Palisades-Dows Preserve in Linn County on land currently used by the CAA in cooperation with the Linn County Conservation Department.

EIOLC interior

Architectural rendering of interior of propsed . Domes housing the telescopes are at top of drawing.

The architectural plans for this new facility resulted in a total construction budget of $701,827. As a non-profit organization that does not charge for their programs and services, CAA looks to community groups and local businesses for funding. This facility, and the world-class astronomical instruments it houses, will have a significant positive impact on the community and education in Eastern Iowa for many years to come.

 

OUR VISION

A Public Observing Night

A packed house at one of the CAA's monthly Pulbic Nights.

CAA members promote the study of astronomy and related sciences through free educational programs, presentations, guided observing sessions. These are available to community organizations, scouting troops, church groups, schools, colleges, universities and the public. The Boller & Chivens telescope will be made available for college and university programs as well as public observing sessions. A chance to look through the eyepiece of such a large instrument is a rare opportunity for members of the general public and should not be missed. The robotic telescope will also be available to area schools for use in their science programs.

M82

Peculiar galaxy M82 in Ursa Major photographed by Matt Neely with the Boller & Chivens telescope.

Why is this important to us? We wish to foster interest in and support of the sciences through hands-on participation in astronomy. There is nothing like seeing the excitement on a young person’s face when they see the rings of Saturn or a distant galaxy for the first time with their own eyes.

Public Observing Night meetings were held monthly from March through October at the Palisades-Dows observatory but are now held in the spacious comfortable indoor meeting facility. The CAA will host a minimum of 12 public events throughout the year—sometimes two per month during the more favorable months from spring to late fall. These events are for people interested in learning more about astronomy and telescopes, and for people who just wonder what it’s like to look through a high-quality telescope.

 

COMMITMENT TO SUCCESS

The Cedar Amateur Astronomers had the technical and project management talents to successfully complete this premier Eastern Iowa Observatory and Learning Center on schedule and under budget.

The Cedar Amateur Astronomers, Inc. was founded on September 29, 1979, and incorporated in 1980. The CAA is based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and is a tax-exempt, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Since its founding, the society's membership has grown from a dozen members to over 100. Our members come from all walks of life and with all levels of interest.

 

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS

Cost Estimate (184kB pdf)
Project Information Sheet (200kB pdf)
Full-Color Brochure describing EIOLC project (3MB pdf)
The CAA's Vison Iowa grant award

Final version of the CAA agreement with the Linn County Conservation Board (48kB Word doc).