AP NEWS

Volunteers, students help build observatory in Wilton

March 30, 2019

WILTON, Iowa (AP) — Students and volunteers in a small eastern Iowa city are working together to construct a $90,000 observatory, which will give children in the area the opportunity to learn more about the universe.

Volunteers in Wilton this week began assembling the observatory’s shell and installing instruments, the Muscatine Journal reported . The project is expected to be completed in May.

Resident Grant Harkness came up with the idea to build the observatory. He said his two young sons have always wanted to learn more about space.

Astronomy is “an incredibly important aspect of the entire human existence,” Harkness said, who is a mechanical maintenance supervisor at energy company Exelon Corp.

The community helped raise the funds for the project after the Wilton Community School District Board approved the plan. The Leland R. Smith Foundation, the Herbert L. Townsend and Nancy M. Townsend Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine, Kent Corp. and Exelon contributed to the initiative, Harkness said.

The observatory will be available for students from kindergarten through 12th grade, Harkness said. The space will include a command center where students will be able to control the telescope and gather data.

“This will be a fully functioning observatory,” he said.

Cory Anderson, a senior at Wilton, helped with the construction with other students in his ag mechanics class.

“It’s pretty cool — something different in town,” he said.

Resident Ben Anderson said his children are excited about the observatory.

“There are a lot of amazing things in space they can start to think about,” he said.

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Information from: Muscatine Journal, http://www.muscatinejournal.com