HELENA — In a white building known as the Solar System observatory sits a telescope that has joined the fleet of star-gazing equipment out at the Montana Learning Center.
Getting this telescope up and running has been 4 years in the making, but it’s all been worth it. This telescope, known as the 24-inch Ritchey-Chrétien, is among some of the most powerful of any publicly accessible telescopes in the state of Montana.
“We had our campers on it last night and they, many of them saw the moon for the first time through a telescope, especially a telescope like that, and it literally blew them away just how close you can see lunar craters, mountains, and valleys, and the detail, and what not,” says Ryan Hannahoe, Executive Director at the Montana Learning Center and the Director of the Astronomy Program.
When brand new, the telescope and mount combined are about $150,000. The telescope and mount weighed in at over 1,000 pounds. They used a crane to deliver the refurbished telescope to its final resting point in the roll-off roof observatory.
The telescope sits in the Solar System observatory that will be accompanied by two other telescopes used specifically for looking at the sun, moon, and planets. Patrolling the skies, the telescope can be controlled by a switch or with an iPad.
While campers can utilize these incredible tools to witness the universe, adults are able to rent out a telescope to join in on the fun.
But most importantly, Hannahoe says this telescope is used to get people interested in science.
“Get kids and people excited about science. I mean, in this day and age I couldn't think of anything more important,” says Hannahoe.