Gearing up for eclipse viewing

West Michigan’s only public observatory readies for eclipse with ’highly specialized’ solar telescope
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Hemlock Crossing Public Observatory is located at 8115 West Olive Road, West Olive, Michigan. Photo by Jessika Cesilia Perez.

Frank Roldan of Grand Haven always has his eye on the sky.

For a long time, it’s been the night sky. He was instrumental in the building of the Hemlock Crossing Public Observatory — West Michigan’s only public observatory — a couple years ago.

Frank Roldan of Grand Haven, with a solar telescope. Roldan was instrumental in building West Michigan’s only public observatory. Courtesy photo.

Now he’s particularly excited about inviting the public to look at the sun, in mid-day, through a solar telescope which will be available this spring. His hope? That it will be ready for the April 8 solar eclipse. Some areas will experience a total eclipse; West Olive (where the observatory is located) is expecting a 92% eclipse. That’s also a big deal.

The “highly specialized” solar telescope as observatory director Roldan said, will be on a portable mount just outside the observatory, available only during Shoreline Amateur Astronomical Association events. It’s a major addition to the current programming.

Since late 2022, the observatory has invited the public to gaze at the night sky – free – with SAAA members every Friday night as well as after once-a-month lectures on Saturday nights (weather permitting). The March 9 lecture will focus on the eclipse and local libraries are planning related programs.

The observatory’s white dome is 13 feet high, 15 feet in diameter and about 50 feet in circumference at its base. It holds a 16 inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and a ladder that helps viewers reach the lens. About 20 people can be inside at a time while one individual looks through the telescope. SAAA members guide visitors, explaining what to look for.

In 2023, the observatory welcomed more than 1,800 visitors; SAAA members volunteered 350 hours.

The observatory is open year-round when the weather is clear. Since the inside of the dome is the same temperature as the outside, visitors are advised to dress appropriately. The viewing is canceled ahead of time due to bad weather or visibility.

For more information, visit holland-saaa.org and Ottawa Parks for more information.

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