Buffalo Museum of Science re-opens Kellogg Observatory

by / Jul. 16, 2018 11am EST

Aspiring star-gazers in Western New York can once again look towards the heavens at the Buffalo Museum of Science.

Visitors can enjoy the Kellogg Observatory, housed under a new aluminized-steel rotating dome, and look through the refurbished and modernized eight-inch Lundin telescope for the first time since 1999.

The rooftop space also boasts a new glass enclosure featuring stairs and an elevator, making the space accessible for people with physical disabilities for the first time ever.

The opening of the observatory, commemorated with a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday, completes the museum’s ambitious $8 million “See It Through” capital campaign which has helped modernize every aspect of the 1929 space.

Marisa Wigglesworth, president and CEO of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, said the $1.8 million return of the observatory fits in well with the rapid growth of the City of Buffalo. She’s excited for the observatory to play its part in Buffalo’s scientific and cultural renaissance.

“Looking through a telescope with your own eye into deep space and a remarkable view of the planets in our solar system is a remarkable experience unlike any other,” Wigglesworth said. “This is a huge milestone in our organization’s history and it took years to get to this day. We received so much support from the community and we’re really thrilled to finally open it back up to the public.”
From meteor showers to high definitions pictures of Jupiter, the observatory allows viewers to see a myriad of celestial extravaganzas. Wigglesworth said the number of planets and celestial activities the observatory allows visitors to see is something special to Buffalo.

“This will depend on the season, or the evening even, but really you can get a lovely look at so many of the planets in our solar system that we know so well,” Wigglesworth said. “You can see the red spot on Jupiter and its moons, you can see Saturn, and when there are special happenings in the night sky, we’ll be able to get great views of those as well. It truly is an amazing tool to have here in Buffalo.”

Wigglesworth said the Buffalo Museum of Science is part of small group of scientific organizations who offer this unique type of learning experience. But, there were numerous working parts that had to come together for the space to be fully operational again.

“We had to raise the money, design this wonderful new building that would allow full access, we had to bring the observatory back to state-of-the-art use –– including a new dome and restoring the original telescope –– we even had to hire an astronomer,” Wigglesworth said. “It was a great variety of steps along the way that required a lot of talented partners across the community and a lot of generous supporters.

The observatory’s new aluminum dome –– which was installed last August –– replaces the original copper dome that had been there since the space opened in 1930. The new dome features state-of-the-art mapping technology, allowing the telescope to mimic the rotation of the planets and the speed of the earth, providing more opportunity to track and view celestial events.

With renovations finally complete, the telescope will be named the E.E. Both Memorial Telescope in his honor in September.

Eager community members got to check out the observatory during its grand opening on Saturday and Sunday, which offered extended evening hours to 11 p.m.

Visitors will be able to utilize the observatory on Wednesdays from nine to 11 p.m.. during 30-minute viewing sessions for $10, with a 10-percent discount for members. The museum’s rooftop deck will also be open to visitors Sundays from 12 to thee p.m., where guests can utilize a different newly installed solar-viewing telescope.

Reservations for the observatory are required ahead of time, as the space has a capacity of five visitors plus a facilitator. If the museums receives a large demand for reservations, it will consider opening for a second weeknight, according to Wigglesworth.

Many notable faces were in attendance at the observatory’s ribbon cutting ceremony.

Mayor Byron Brown marveled at the newly renovated tool and spoke about the value of science and education. Brown said he’s optimistic that the newly renovated observatory will become one of the many destinations the city has been cultivating.

“This building, for over 90 years, has been a major anchor here in one of our beautiful Olmstead parks – Martin Luther King Park,” Mayor Brown said. “Now with the re-opening of the Kellogg Observatory, we will see even more people from across the city, region, nation and beyond enjoying this tremendous world-class resource that we have right here in the City of Buffalo.”

The building is owned by the City of Buffalo, which contributed $525,000 to the observatory project. Brown announced the city will provide at least an additional $900,000 in capital investment to the science museum by 2019. 

Deputy county executive Maria Whyte spoke about the importance of science in an age of “alternative facts.” She expressed the importance of allocating and utilizing tools like the observatory during our current socio-political climate.

“We are in an age of alternative facts. And science is a process, that through testable explanations, seeks to find emergent truths,” Whyte said. “Emergent truths are those things that are true, regardless of whether you believe them. Because of this propensity presently for alternative facts, science and emergent truths are more important now than ever.”

With arguably its most ambitious renovation now complete, the museum’s next project will be resorting the building’s front steps. Wigglesworth said the museum has already raised half of the $2.26 million funds, and city officials at the ribbon cutting event promised the stairs would be repaired soon.

Max Kalnitz is the senior news editor at UB’s independent student newspaper The Spectrum and can be reached at max.kalnitz@ubspectrum.com.