Thank you to everyone who has helped us reach our $15,000 goal! In the final days of the project, we are still pushing to raise funds to complete all of the projects we would like to see done at Fuertes. Check out our goal list for more info!
Since 1917, the Fuertes Observatory has been Cornell's window into the wonders of the universe. However, after a century of continuous use, many parts of the building are in need of renovation and upgrading. The Cornell Astronomical Society opens Fuertes every Friday evening to over 4,000 visitors each year, and we need your help to ensure that Fuertes will continue to be an outstanding center for public outreach and science education for another 100 years to come!
A Brief History of the Fuertes Observatory
In 1916, construction of the Fuertes Observatory began under the supervision of the Cornell Department of Civil Engineering. The building was completed in 1917 with a 24-foot-diameter steel dome; 30-foot-long I-beams were incorporated to provide support for a future telescope. The first telescope in the dome room of Fuertes was a 4.5-inch refractor telescope used in some of Cornell's previous observatories, and was mounted on an equatorial clock-driven mount. Many of the Civil Engineering Department's surveying instruments (zenith telescopes, theodolites, sextants, etc.) were mounted on piers in a transit room in the eastern wing of the building, which is now a museum displaying the same instruments.
Soon after, in 1919, Civil Engineering Professor Irving Porter Church acquired two glass blanks from the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin. The glass blanks were ground and polished into a 12-inch achromatic lens by Brashear & Co in 1920. Professor Church spearheaded a campaign to raise money from civil engineering alumni to build the telescope and equatorial mounting. In January 1922, the order was placed with the Warner & Swasey Company to build the equatorial mount, and the telescope was officially dedicated on June 15, 1923 as the Irving Porter Church Memorial Telescope.
Read more about the history of Fuertes Observatory, written by Professor Phil Nicholson, on our Fuertes History Page!
Two years ago, we launched our extremely successful Fuertes Observatory Museum Project, which allowed us to renovate the eastern wing of the building, previously used as storage space, into a professional space to display our historic astronomical equipment. If you haven't visited since the renovation, its outcome can be seen in this Cornell Chronicle Article and in our renovation gallery! With this momentum, we would like to continue restoring other parts of the building for its 100th anniversary.
We Need Your Help!
For 100 years, the Fuertes Observatory has been open to the public to learn about the wonders of the universe and the history of astronomy. Over the years, many parts of the building have fallen into disrepair and are in need of renovation. While the Cornell Astronomy Department and Cornell Facilities are dedicated to fixing and preserving the exterior of the building, funds are not readily available to upgrade and restore the inside of Fuertes. That's why we need your help!
We have three main goals for this project:
- Dome Room Renovation: $10,000 (funded!)
- The dome room, the "crown jewel" of the building that houses the historic Irving Porter Church Refractor, is in desperate need of restoration. We hope to give the walls and telescope a fresh coat of paint, replace the decades-old carpet with new flooring, add better lighting for cloudy night tours, and install cabinets to store the observatory's equipment. Additionally, some of the dome's mechanical parts, such as the shutter and driver, need to be fixed for smoother operation and protection of the telescope.
- The Classroom: $5,000 (funded!)
- With our successful outreach program, we are in need of upgrading the observatory's classroom to better accommodate our lecture series. We also need to purchase and mount a new projector in the classroom, and install a sound and computer system for documentaries & presentations.
- Museum and Observatory Displays: $3,000
- To complete the Fuertes Observatory Museum, we need to print and mount approximately 20 high-quality displays on the walls throughout the observatory. Additionally, several antique prints need to be professionally preserved before they can safely be put on display.
Any additional funds on top of that will go towards renovating other parts of the building, including the ground level flooring, the observatory's office, and the exterior of the dome itself.
From all of us at the Cornell Astronomical Society, thank you for your support!