Guffey Observatory

Guffey School is privileged to have an astronomical observatory housing a pair of large, fine telescopes. We are one of only a very few elementary or middle schools with such a sophisticated instrument available on campus.

Guffey Observatory

The Guffey Observatory, with the building rolled partly back.

The Everhart Telescope

Although we call it a telescope, it is really a pair of telescopes mounted side-by-side. Both are Newtonian (reflecting) telescopes, one with a 16-inch mirror and the other with a 12-inch mirror. The larger instrument is used mainly for visual observations, while the smaller will utilize a sensitive video camera. While only one person can be at the eyepiece at a time, a large group can enjoy the simultaneous view on a TV monitor.

Although the atmospheric stability (called seeing by astronomers) is only occasionally good enough to support it, the 16-inch telescope is capable of a theoretical magnification of about 800 power. That's enough to make the Moon look as if you were just 300 miles above its surface!

The two telescopes are mounted together on a robust equatorial mount, which is motorized to track the sky. Once aimed at an object, the telescope will follow it without needing to be re-aimed.

The telescope was built by Edgar Everhart in 1980. Everhart was a professor at the University of Denver, and director of the Chamberlin Observatory in Denver. This was his personal telescope, and when he died about 15 years ago his family requested that DU take over management of the telescope and that it be used to support student projects. In April of 2007 DU offered the telescope to Guffey School on open-ended loan, on the condition that it could be safely housed.

The Observatory Structure

There are many types of observatories. It was decided that the Guffey Observatory would consist of a rolloff building. This is an excellent approach for a telescope used for group instruction, since there are no walls around it when in use. It also means that the structure only needs to be a little larger than the telescope itself. The Guffey Observatory is a 10-foot by 7-foot building that rolls back on 24-foot long, "V" shaped tracks. The telescope is surrounded by a 12-foot square raised deck.

The structure was built during the summer of 2007 in just over a month, by volunteers from the Guffey community.

The Program

The telescope is naturally used for astronomy instruction (part of the science curriculum). But it is also used to advance the Ends policy that students should be aware of their surroundings and appreciative of nature. For thousands of years, the sky has been a part of mankind's everyday environment- the part of nature over our heads. With the growth of modern cities, and the loss of dark skies, many people no longer feel a connection with the sky. We strive to restore that connection. There need be nothing "scientific" about observing the sky through a telescope, any more than there is observing birds through binoculars.

In addition to student use, the observatory serves as a point of intersection between the school and the community- also an important Ends policy. The school hosts community star parties, and community members have the opportunity to learn how to operate the telescope and thereby expand the possibilities for its use.