The Stansbury Park Observatory Complex will soon be home to what may be the largest amateur telescope in the United States.
The Salt Lake Astronomical Society will hold a groundbreaking ceremony at 5 p.m. this Saturday at SPOC for the construction of a new building designed to house the massive telescope, which includes a 35-foot-long frame and a 70-inch mirror.
The housing for the telescope will be a steel building placed on top of 8-foot-tall poured concrete walls, according to a release from SLAS. The building will cost approximately $58,500 to construct, according to SPOC director Rodger Fry.
Construction costs were paid for through $25,000 in donations, a $25,000 matching grant from Tooele County and $8,500 from SLAS, Fry said.
“We’re in a good position to see it through to the end,” he said.
When not being stored inside the new building, the telescope will be rolled out of the housing and oriented on a concrete pad adjacent to the existing observatory building, the release said.
The land for the new telescope and building was acquired in a 50-year lease agreement with the Stansbury Park Service Agency, in which SLAS will pay $10 per year and provide upkeep and access to facilities throughout the duration of the lease.
After the groundbreaking, construction is expected to begin on the building with work slated to finish on May 1, the release said. If the project is finished on schedule, a grand opening to the public will be held on May 20.
Mike Clements of Herriman, Utah constructed the amateur telescope using a mirror designed for a Cold War-era spy satellite. The mirror was never used due to a small chip on the outside edge that made it unsuitable for use in the satellite.
After purchasing the mirror in 2004, Clements didn’t complete the telescope until 2013 due to his full-time job as a long-haul trucker.
SPOC is located off Stansbury Parkway near the Stansbury Park Improvement District offices and baseball complex. It is open to the public and hosts star parties from the spring through the fall.