International Dark Sky Discovery Center announces 2024 groundbreaking in East Valley
The International Dark Sky Discovery Center will have a Dark Sky Observatory, Hyperspace Planetarium, Inspiration Theater, a Night Sky Experience Exhibit Hall and an Einstein Exploration Station in Fountain Hills. The observatory will have the largest telescope in the Greater Phoenix area.
The international centerpiece for inspiring future scientists and people of all ages to understand how important dark skies are for the well-being of humans, plants, and animals, and for opening a window to the observable universe.
Development of a nonprofit STEM-based International Dark Sky Discovery Center will soon be underway in Fountain Hills during spring 2024.
"We are over-the-top happy to share that our board unanimously voted to begin construction of the International Dark Sky Discovery Center," said Joe Bill, president of the International Dark Sky Discovery Center. "Groundbreaking is planned for March 2024."
The International Dark Sky Discovery Center will have a Dark Sky Observatory, Hyperspace Planetarium, Inspiration Theater, a Night Sky Experience Exhibit Hall and an Einstein Exploration Station. The observatory will have the largest telescope in the Greater Phoenix area, which Bill said has led to discussions with Arizona State University about collaborative opportunities.
"As a leader in STEM education and space exploration, ASU is excited by the creation of the International Dark Sky Discovery Center," said ASU President Michael M. Crow. "The Discovery Center reinforces Arizona's commitment to expanding our understanding of the universe, and we look forward to working with them to advance new research and learning opportunities."
Part of the mission of the Discovery Center is to help preserve dark skies, an important objective for the astronomy state of Arizona.
"Dark skies are an increasingly important part of Arizona's tourism offerings," said Lisa Urias, executive director of the Arizona Office of Tourism, "and the Discovery Center admirably represents our state's dedication to astronomical research and education."
Getting designated as an International Dark Sky Community is rare for a community so close to a major metropolitan area.
"Fountain Hills is the perfect location for the Discovery Center," State Sen. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills said. "With its dark skies and proximity to millions of people, the Discovery Center will benefit the entire state."
The Discovery Center will be a 23,000-square-foot, nonprofit STEM science facility. Its STEM science mission of dark sky preservation relates to astronomy research, protection of nocturnal animals and human health.
The facility was designed by Swaback Architecture and construction will be done by McCarthy Builders. As a beacon of cosmic and technology education, the Discovery Center seeks the support of philanthropic partners to put the finishing touches on this first-of-its-kind facility.
More information, including a narrated 3D flyover of the Discovery Center, is available at darkskycenter.org.
Top 20 Stargazing Destination
In June, Fountain Hills celebrated being a Top 20 Stargazing Destination in the country. The town was already recognized as the world's 17th International Dark Sky Community.
HomeToGo, at hometogo.com, an online vacation rental marketplace, released its 2023 Summer Stargazing Index, which ranked the top 17 stargazing destinations in the U.S. Fountain Hills was number 16 on the list.
"Fountain Hills continues to be recognized as one of the very best places on this planet to gaze up at the others," said Fountain Hills Mayor Ginny Dickey.
To come up with the ranking, HomeToGo analyzed various factors, including average cloud cover and population density, to indicate how secluded an area is and the accessibility of affordable accommodations. Additionally, it even considered and evaluated many different International Dark Sky Places, which are considered top spots for stargazing thanks to their low light pollution.
The complete ranking of the top U.S. destinations for stargazing:
1. Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, Colo.
2. Dripping Springs, Ariz.
3. Harmony, Fla.
4. Flagstaff, Ariz.
5. Sedona, Ariz.
6 (Tied) Beverly Shores, Ind.
6 (Tied) Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation, Ariz.
8. Fort Davis, Texas
9. Dripping Springs-Wimberley, Texas
10. Torrey, Utah
11. Horseshoe Bay, Texas
12. Lost Creek, Texas
13. Borrego Springs, Calif.
14. Village of Oak Creek, Ariz.
15. Homer Glen, Ill.
16. Fountain Hills, Ariz.
17. Ketchum, Idaho
"It’s great, and well-deserved, to have Fountain Hills be recognized as one of the top star gazing locations on the planet,” added Bill. “As a dark sky oasis in the Valley of the Sun and the town’s prestigious designation as the 17th International Dark Sky Community in the world, Fountain HIlls is the perfect location for the planned, nonprofit 23,000-square-foot International Dark Sky Discovery Center."
by Kelly Mixer of the Queen Creek Sun-Times
To learn more about Fountain Hills International Dark Sky Community, visit fhdarksky.com, and learn more about the International Dark Sky Discovery Center at darkskycenter.org.