The stars have aligned this weekend, for the tenth anniversary celebration of the Kiwanis Chico Community Observatory. The event kicked off Thursday night, with a free hot chocolate social and viewing of the Leonids Meteor Shower..
"I'm hoping to see a meteor shower." "Maybe some stars, constellations." "Stars and asteroids maybe." "Maybe some of the planets too. Maybe some of the really far away ones that you can't see with an average telescope." What ever they're looking for up in the sky, visitors from all over the world come to check it out at the Kiwanis Chico Community Observatory. Located in Upper Bidwell Park, next to Horseshoe Lake, the observatory opened it's doors November 17, 2001. And since then, more than 100,000 visitors have attended the free astronomy lesson.
Observatory Docent Anita Ingrao says, "We've been able to give the Chico people, the kids and the surrounding areas 10 years of free astronomy education."
Observatory director Kris Koenig says he's always had a passion for astronomy, and ten years ago, decided to share it with the Chico community. "It is really important that we have a facility for our children. To come and explore and feel like they belong to it," he says.
The observatory offers two 14-inch celestrons, two 'binocular like' instruments, and even the worlds only outdoor planetarium. Koenig says, "It's the only one of it's kind.. Where people can sit outside. Look at the stars and get a planetarium experience."
To celebrate the observatory's 10th anniversary, a Starlight Film Festival will be held Friday and Saturday at the Sierra Nevada Big Room. 8 filmmakers, 2 astronomers, and even SpaceShipOne astronaut Brian Binnie will be on hand. "Five films have come together in what they call the PBS star gazing package. And all the producers are coming up," says Ingrao.
Koenig says he hopes this celebration will not only celebrate the last 10 years, but also kick off the next ten. And he says if you haven't been to the observatory, it's truly a magical experience. "Amazement, astonishment.. It's just really cool."
All proceeds from the event will raise scholarship funds for the high school docents who volunteer their time at the observatory.