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New observatory aims to escape city lights

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PALOMAR MTN, CA - AUGUST 28: View of the Palomar Observatory at night, on August 28, 2006, outside of San Diego, California. Scientists at the obsevatory were instrumental in determining that Pluto be downgraded to a dwarf planet. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

NEW HAVEN, Ind. (June 4, 2016) — The Fort Wayne Astronomical Society is looking to boost its appeal to stargazers with a new observatory.

The observatory is being built in a rural area a few miles east of New Haven with more than $200,000 in contributions from community foundations, businesses and group members, project coordinator Gene Stringer said.

About 40 people will fit into the building at one time to peer through the group’s 16-inch diameter telescope, which can collect 6,000 times more light than the naked eye, Stringer told The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/24jew4a ).

It will replace the observatory the group has had since 1978 at Fox Island, where light pollution and nearby trees have hurt the nighttime view.

“We hadn’t seen Mercury in decades,” Stringer said.

Construction is expected to wrap up this fall. Society members are planning to hold free star parties from April through November on Saturday nights with clear skies.

The new 750-square-foot building will have a warming room, while the rest of it will be ambient temperature, Stringer said.

The observatory site is on a 120-acre parcel owned by the U.S. National Parks Service that’s also home of the Fort Wayne Flying Circuits, a club for radio-controlled small airplanes, and the Maumee Valley Antique Steam and Gas Association.