Public Access to the SJO
To reserve the SJO for a private star party, visit: https://tinyurl.com/smokeyjack
Construction and Dedication of the SJO
"Star Guide" Volunteering Instructions at bottom of page
The SJO was designed and constructed in the spring and summer of 2015. The observatory is 12' by 12' with a retractable roof, and houses a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with computer guided pointing and tracking. It is located on the southwest corner of The Bluff, just below the grassy level of the park used for festivals.
The Smokey Jack Observatory was designed by Jim Bradburn and Charles Keyes. Due to the generosity of local merchants (Paul Wenke from Ace Hardware, Frank Oberlin from Critical Path Metal Works, and Kent Beach from Beach Ready Mix Concrete), all the construction materials have been donated-in-kind! Plus volunteers John Peleaux, construction leader with Mike Liebman, Bob Remington, Bob Tobin, Bob Huestis, and Jack Naff, did all the construction work. Wireless service to support telescope operation for the observatory is being provided by DD Wireless.
The observatory is named in honor of Suzanne B. Jack, known to all as Smokey Jack, the first Dark Skies President. Smokey and Bill Jack owned and operated the Texas Creek Ranch. Smokey loved the beautiful night skies of the Wet Mountain Valley, and she wanted others to be able to admire the Milky Way. In 1998 Smokey Jack organized a small group of concerned citizens to "...prevent light pollution through education." Under Smokey's able leadership, replacing one light at a time, Dark Skies had solicited enough donations to change all 45 streetlights in the Town of Westcliffe to dark sky friendly fixtures by August of 2001. Smokey Jack died of cancer in 2004 at the age of 58, but left behind a legacy of education about light pollution that continues to spread, protecting our pristine dark skies for future generations.
It's doubtful that the beautiful starry night sky as seen from the Wet Mountain Valley would have survived without Smokey's efforts.
After pouring the concrete slab earlier, the north and south walls go up by May 29, 2015.
East and west walls are erected by June 4 along with the rails for the roll-off roof.
The old barn wood siding is first applied to the north wall on June 7, 2015.
The observatory is operational for the lunar eclipse viewing party on September 27, 2015.
The observatory is located just off the The Bluff's southwest corner and down the slope so that it is mostly out of sight from Adams Blvd. It can only be reached by walking. See Google Maps for directions: https://goo.gl/maps/6dUJmeJE5Nw.
The observatory as viewed from the Cliff Lanes' Weatherbug.com webcam at:
The observatory was formally dedicated on the night of Friday, November 13, 2015, with over 100 people attending. A short star party followed under near perfect skies except for sub-freezing temps.
The SJO dedication story in the Wet Mountain Tribune in the November 19, 2015 edition.
Dark Skies Seeks Volunteer Star Guides for the SJO
Those wishing to become a Star Guide will go through a series of video tutorials titled "Crash Course Astronomy" and attend training sessions for conducting a star party and how to operate the observatory and the computerized telescope. While there is a video of the star party session that can be used as a substitute, the hands-on observatory training must be done in person so that profeciency can be demonstrated prior to being given an assignment.
The new Smokey Jack Observatory is located at The Bluff Park, near the First State Bank of CO parking lot. In order to make the observatory available to the public, Dark Skies will periodically be seeking volunteers to be “Star Guides” to operate the observatory whenever an individual or a group reserves the use the facility for a night of stargazing enjoyment. They will work in pairs, so couples or mutual friends are preferred.
It is important that the star guides be present at all times to assist in the use and operation of the telescope. Volunteers should be willing to spend an evening of approximately two hours at the observatory and be responsible for its operation. Although an understanding of things astronomical is welcome, it is not necessary. Training will be provided. We will rotate the scheduled times to utilize all volunteers fairly.
To this end, the duties and requirements of the volunteer star guides are as follows:
Must be an adult, 21 years of age or older.
Must be able to deactivate the alarm, and reactivate upon leaving.
Must be able to open the roof by operating a boat-type winch, and then close it before leaving.
Must change out eyepieces in the telescope, as needed.
Must be able to operate the computer system that automatically aims the telescope.
Must be able to access information from the computer system about the object being viewed and convey that to the guests in an interesting manner.
Must be able to park the telescope using the computer system and turn off the computer system.
We will conduct a required set of training sessions that will include a general understanding of basic astronomy, how to operate the observatory equipment, and advice on how to make the viewing session (star party) interesting and fun.
To indicate your interest in being a star guide, download the application form, fillout, and send via email attachment to:
email to: email@example.com (preferred contact)
or call Clint Smith at 719-371-8402
Deadline: Closed for current season.
Star Guide Training Program:
Astronomy video series on YouTube: Crash Course Astronomy
On-site training video from March, 2015: http://tinyurl.com/starguidetraining
On-site training video notes: click here.