The Stamford Museum and Nature Center (SM&NC) marked a milestone in its history this week as it took the first step to move the historic Grigory Maksutov telescope to the Lyceum Astronomical Hall, a historical telescope museum in Magdalena, New Mexico. Carolyn Simmons, mayor of Stamford, joined SM&NC officials on Tuesday to watch the telescope being lifted through the dome of the current observatory.

Frank Compo & Sons Inc. Headquartered in Stamford, the same family business that raised and lowered the telescope across the dome in 1965 – it returned to extract and transport it under the expert supervision of engineer and astronomer John W. Briggs and distinguished scientific advisors to SM & NC. board.

“Our priority is the safe transportation of this historic Maksutov telescope to New Mexico, where we will have a wonderful partnership with Lyceum,” said Melissa H. Mulroney, CEO of SM&NC. “Not only will they be able to keep the telescope in good shape, but we’ll benefit from our ability to look into the dark sky, with a view unlike what we can see here in Connecticut.”

The telescope move also gives way to the demolition of the museum’s decommissioned observatory, followed by any necessary work on the site, and the construction of the new planetarium and the Astronomy Center, the second major venue to be added to SM & NC’s 118-acre campus in the past five years.

Covering approximately 10,000 square feet, the new Planetarium and Astronomy Center will combine and expand the SM&NC Observatory with a full planetarium. The facility will have three levels that include a 100-seat auditorium on the first floor with the latest technology, a science lab classroom on the second floor, and a third level that includes housing for a 22-inch lunar telescope, a solar telescope and a roof retracted to a public viewing deck. In addition to being a cultural attraction, the facility will serve as a center for science, technology, engineering, arts, astronomy, and mathematics education, supporting Connecticut State and New Generation Science Standards.

The Planetarium and Astronomy Center and Knobloch Family Farmhouse, which opened in November 2018, are part of SM & NC’s vision master plan to build the future capacity of the museum’s educational and public spaces.

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