“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
– Carl Sagan, Astronomer
The multi-functional International Dark Sky Discovery Center (IDSDC) will be unique. Why? Because no facility in the world focuses on dark sky preservation as a portal to better understanding astronomy, the space program, the universe, and life on earth.
This approach, using science-based education and interactive experiences, will establish the IDSDC as an international centerpiece for supporting the growing worldwide interest in how dark skies relate to the exploration of the cosmos, archeoastronomy, and the well-being of humans, plants, and animals. Children and adults alike will be introduced to, and awed by the wonders of the universe.
The non-profit $18 million IDSDC will be located in Fountain Hills, Arizona and will fulfill its education mission by supporting STEM programs and fostering partnerships with Arizona State University, area community colleges, and high schools. The facility will offer programs and experiences that will inspire, educate, and stir imaginations. Additionally, it will address the rapidly growing interest in astrotourism, thus serving as an educational and experiential attraction for Arizona and beyond.
The approximately 15,000 square-foot structure includes four major components:
DARK SKY OBSERVATORY:
A first-class domed observatory housing a large, research-grade telescope with provisions for visual observing, astrophotography, and live broadcasts
A state-of-the-art, tilted dome planetarium with immersive digital technology
A multi-use, 150-tiered-seat theater/auditorium/lecture hall with the latest 8K projection technology and sound systems
A 3,000 square-foot exhibit hall with interactive and engaging educational displays, traveling exhibits, and a featured Dark Sky Immersion Experience.
Sometimes referred to as a dark sky oasis in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun, the Town of Fountain Hills is the ideal location for the planned facility. In 2018, Fountain Hills was designated as the 17th International Dark Sky Community in the world. With the added rare distinction of being near a metropolitan area, this prestigious award generated widespread publicity nationally and in many parts of the world. The facility will be located in the Town Center to maximize synergistic opportunities with the surrounding adjacent institutions such as the River of Time Museum, Fountain Hills Library, Community Center, Community Garden, and Town Hall. Important to note is that the Town of Fountain Hills has added at least $2 million of value to this project by committing, for a nominal fee, prime Town property with adequate parking, lighting, and infrastructure.
The anticipated uses of the facility are wide-ranging and include working partnerships with other institutions, lectures, public viewing and research in the observatory, planetarium shows, advanced placement courses, astronomy camps, lessons in astrophotography, exhibit competitions, video productions, star parties, tours, visits, receptions, and much more.
The value the IDSDC brings to education in Arizona is recognized by Governor Doug Ducey with his support statement, “The International Dark Sky Discovery Center is an exciting opportunity for students and amateur star-gazers alike. The Center will be another tremendous asset to keep our state at the forefront of STEM education.”
The educational quality and sustainability of this outstanding venture is further assured by the statement from Arizona State University’s President Dr. Michael Crow, “Arizona State University looks forward to developing a collaborative relationship with the International Dark Sky Discovery Center.”
Upon reaching the fundraising goal, the strong, diverse talents of the IDSDC Board of Directors and the incredibly strong support from the entire community assure successful implementation. The IDSDC won’t be a Fountain Hills attraction. It will be an international attraction in Fountain Hills that will benefit the entire state of Arizona.