Banner Creek Observatory Science Center

(Frank) And we’re back again. I’m sorry, but when you got a song in your head and you just can’t get rid of it [laughs]. (Deb) [sings] Crazy. (Frank) Today it’s [sings] Crazy. (Deb) [sings] Crazy. The word of the day is crazy children. (Frank) And we apologize for that [laughs]. (Deb):We’re nuts. That’s it, bottom line. (Frank) Oh my– (Deb) Okay. So when I found out you’re going to do this story Frank, on the Banner Creek Observatory Science Center, my friend Brenda Karl-Wilson works up there. And she messaged me that they’ve got a couple of workshops coming up in July, one on Archaeology with our good friend Virginia Wulfkuhle and Geology with Linda Pickett and in August, two more, Chemistry and Physics, which obviously don’t turn me on. But, in August, they will have a meteor shower viewing. And my friend Brenda is just amazing. She does some incredible stuff, a wonderful astronomer but so creative, and does some amazing things. So, I think you can check out the website and it’s a great story, Frank. People are going to be blown away. (Frank) Did you say Virginia Wolf? (Deb) Wulfkuhle. (Frank) Okay. Because, Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf? (Deb) Nobody is afraid of Virginia Wulfkuhle. She’s wonderful. (Frank) Okay. (Deb) She’s a sweet lady. (Frank) It’s an observatory. Listen to this. Banner Creek Science Center & Observatory was previously known as the Elk Creek Observatory, EOC. The ECO was founded in 2000, and became the only high school-owned observatory in the world. It was originally built with grant funds from the Christa McAuliffe Grant Foundation, named after teacher Christa McAuliffe, who died in the 1986 Challenger shuttle disaster. The grant request was written by Karen and Mike Ford. The original grant funded a 14-inch telescope, robotic mount, fiberglass dome, and a CCD camera. USD 336 also assisted with the funding for the building, which was designed and built by Bob Phillips’ woodworking class. The observatory construction was completed in late October 2000 and dedicated by Dr. Bruce Twarog, KU Astronomy Professor, in November 2000. Students learned how to do CCD imaging and how to use the images for research. In the summer of 2003, students got a larger telescope. In May 2003, Mike Ford presented a program to the Holton High School Alumni about the observatory. After the presentation, several alums expressed interest in the project. Alumnus Bill Zirger had asked what would be the ultimate to work with and how much would it cost. A list of equipment was put together with the cost, around $150,000. Bill and fellow alumnus Dennis Blossom talked to another alum, Senator Pat Roberts, about getting this funded for the school district. In December 2003, Senator Roberts called and talked to Coach Brooks Barta to congratulate him on winning the State 4A Football Championship and told him to pass the word that he had put in an appropriation for the observatory in the 2003 budget. When Congress approved the budget, the newly equipped observatory was a reality. The appropriated funds would be provided through the Department of Education’s Technology Initiative Program. As of November 2004, a new dome was installed, the new robotic mount, new Dell computers, software, a new large format camera from Santa Barbara Instruments Group, and a new portable, 30-foot diameter Starlab planetarium! The telescope itself is an RC Optical Systems 20-inch reflector, which had been used at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. With the kind assistance of Gary Hug of the Northeast Kansas Amateur Astronomers League and Holton High School Advanced Space Science students, the observatory was up and running in late December 2004. A re-dedication was held in March 2005. Visit their website to arrange visits and take advantage of their observation nights.

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