Astronomer tells Snowmass Village to reach for the stars |

Astronomer tells Snowmass Village to reach for the stars

Madeleine Osberger
Snowmass correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – David Aguilar has an idea how to keep people in Snowmass Village during the evening: Build an observatory that would take advantage of the dark night skies.

Aguilar, an astronomer and director of public affairs and science information for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center of Astrophysics, pitched the idea Monday evening to the Snowmass Village Town Council, whose members appeared receptive to the concept.

“What we’re finding is that people’s interest in science, especially astronomy, is going up,” Aguilar said.

The past director of the Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado teased elected officials with information that he said would likely be released this summer: “We have discovered another Planet Earth circling around another star.”

Star-gazing has been especially exciting during the past few nights, he said, recalling images of the rings of Saturn visible directly overhead one evening and the polar rings of Mars glowing on another evening.

Knowledge of a forthcoming comet or eclipse could draw hordes of people to the resort, he believes, adding that home-grown observatories are commonplace in small towns in the Chilean Andes.

Aguilar and his wife, Shirley, are co-founders of “Aspen Skies,” touted as a science education group that specializes in custom-built observatories. The couple resides part-time in Carbondale and hopes to build a home in Snowmass Village.

He said a permanent facility could be built for between $82,000 to $85,000, not including the foundation or land costs.

Forming an exploratory committee to further investigate a site and costs is a “no-brainer for me,” said Councilwoman Markey Butler. Her colleague, Arnie Mordkin, suggested that there may be federal grant monies that could help pay for the educational project.

Aguilar, who had already presented the idea to the town’s marketing board, even has some catchy phrases that could be used to promote the attraction: “Snowmass – where the real stars come out at night” and “Snowmass, it’s out of this world.”

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