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Observatory Promotes Learning About Astronomy

Doug Slauson

The Gazette

February 19, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

Although we don’t have a Challenger Learning Center in Iowa, we do have a local facility dedicated to increasing awareness about space and the fascinating objects in our night skies. The Palisades-Dows Observatory is a joint venture of Linn County Conservation and the Cedar Amateur Astronomers Inc. The facility has operated continuously since 1988, bringing astronomy to the people of Eastern Iowa. The observatory is located in the Palisades-Dows Preserve, southeast of Cedar Rapids.

   I am a member of the CAA, which presently has two structures containing telescopes for public programs. We give monthly public presentations, March through October, covering a variety of astronomical topics, followed by a public viewing of the night sky.

   However, the presentations are outdoors and subject to the whims of Iowa weather. Accordingly, we have embarked on a fundraising campaign to create a large, professional-quality facility — the Eastern Iowa Observatory and Learning Center. The learning center will contain classroom space, restrooms, digital audio-visual equipment and new domes to house an automated 16-inch diameter telescope and a 24-inch diameter telescope that was generously donated by the University of Iowa.

   Visitors will be able to enjoy presentations in comfort — rain or shine. CAA members will continue to share their own telescopes with the public as they have done since the society’s founding in 1979.

   Project drawings, photos and other details can be found at

   While the objectives of the Eastern Iowa Observatory and Learning Center differ from the Challenger Learning Centers, this center will enhance our mission to foster interest in astronomy, provide a learning laboratory for students and inspire wonder and curiosity about the universe and our place in it.
Doug Slauson