EASTON, Maine — The Francis Malcolm Science Center will be home to the only public telescope observatory in Aroostook County in 2021 thanks to the efforts of a high school senior and astronomy enthusiast.
Connor St. Peter of Kenduskeag, a student at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone, has been designing a telescope observatory over the last few months that will be built on the grounds of the Science Center in Easton. The project will help St. Peter to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boys Scouts of America, and allow the public to view Aroostook’s unique dark skies. Other observatories in The County are privately owned.
St. Peter became inspired to create an observatory after taking astronomy classes from MSSM instructor Larry Berz, who is also the Science Center’s planetarium director. He and other MSSM students visited the backyard observatory of Mars Hill resident Roger Libby in 2019, which helped fuel his fascination with the world beyond the skies.
“Being part of the astronomy club has really opened my eyes to the information and knowledge that’s out there about the night sky,” St. Peter said. “It was a cool experience to look through a telescope and learn how [Libby’s] observatory was built.”
St. Peter and Berz had originally discussed placing the observatory near MSSM to educate both students and the members of the public. But both later realized that having the observatory closer to the general public would benefit any family and group of students who wanted to visit the Science Center.
The observatory will stand 16 feet tall and 20×24 feet wide, and will include a 20-inch Dobsonian Goliath telescope for viewing stars, planets and other intergalactic objects through the crystal clear Aroostook County skies.
St. Peter and Berz are seeking donations for building materials. They hope to begin construction on the observatory in spring and have the structure completed by August 2021.
Berz said that the telescope will become the largest public telescope in Aroostook County. He is excited for the opportunity for the public to experience the joys of exploring the night skies.
“My hope is that the observatory will become a resource for instilling a reverence and awe for the beauty of Aroostook’s dark skies,” Berz said. “I think this is going to change how we can teach astronomy in Aroostook County.”
He also praised St. Peter’s work ethic and determination to pursue a project that will benefit not only himself but numerous people in The County.
“No teacher feels prouder than when their student becomes an example of leadership for others to follow,” Berz said. “What Connor is creating for us is a wonderful reflection of his dedication and character.”
By the time the observatory opens next summer, St. Peter will have graduated from MSSM. He looks forward to the day when more people can experience the wonder of peering through a telescope.
“It’ll be one of the proudest moments of my life,” St. Peter said.
Correction: A previous version of this story contained an error on the dimensions of the observatory.