A cheerful winter fund-raiser at Chez Francois, the chic French restaurant in Great Falls, raised more than $8,000 Saturday to help build Observatory Park at The Turner Farm in Great Falls.
The Analemma Society, which sponsored the event, hopes to build the first of four small roll top buildings that will house telescopes by this fall.
The astronomers also plan a central building about 18 feet square which will have a stationary roof. The four “pods” will be about 11 feet square, “just big enough for a telescope in the middle,” said Bill Kemmerer, a member of the Analemma Society’s fundraising committee.
The four will be built with slanted roofs that have low profiles and roll-top roofs that can be removed manually “to keep the costs down, and more importantly, there is less red tape,” said Kemmerer.
“The current plan is to put in the central building and as many pods (of the four) as we can afford.”
Ultimately, the project will need between $40,000 and $100,000, he said. But the first of the pods and the central building together will cost about $30,000. Kemmerer said the Analemma Society hopes to have them in place by fall of this year. Their goal is to hold stargazing nights on Fridays.
In the meantime, the group plans to begin inviting the public to view stars on Friday nights in the open, when weather permits this spring.
The society has raised about $10,000 a year, and purchased a tripod for a seven-inch 180 mm. refractor telescope that was donated. Its value is $16,000; with accessories, $29,500, Kemmerer said.
Saturday’s fund-raiser featured a talk by former NASA astronaut, Bill Reedy, now the associate director of manned space flight for NASA. He described his experiences on three Space Shuttle mission in 1992, ‘94 and ‘96.
The Space Chords, a NASA-inspired barbershop quartet, also performed.
Donated items that fetched high prices at a live auction included a pearl necklace from Adeler Jewelers, a formal portrait from Hill Signature Portraits, and “a gourmand’s seafood dinner for 10” prepared by Olin.
The Analemma Society will also be selling embroidered baseball caps for $35 and gold Observatory Park lapel pins to honor $100 cash donations.
The event was planned by Analemma’s Fundraising committee: Mike McCombs, Lynn and Bill Kemmerer, Pam Turner, Helen Lerner and Beth Hersey.