The observatory was officially opened on October 21, 2006. The project was led by Win Pendleton, a retired astronomy educator, and member of both the Gilbert Rotary Club and the East Valley Astronomy Club. The year 2005 marked the one hundredth anniversary of Rotary International, and the local club adopted the idea of creating a public observatory as its centennial project. The facility was built through private donations and gifted to the Town of Gilbert. Please check the memorial plaques beside the walkway for the names of significant donors. The East Valley Astronomy Club manages the observatory through agreement with the Town of Gilbert Parks and Recreation Department. Our staff are all volunteers who embrace sharing their love of astronomy and space science.
The observatory houses a 16” Meade LX200R telescope which is mounted on a Paramount ME German equatorial mount controlled by The Sky Professional computer software for accurate tracking and GOTO operation. Also mounted on the main telescope is a 60mm Lunt solar telescope for viewing the sun in the hydrogen alpha spectrum. The rotating aluminum dome is from Observa-DOME Laboratories and measures 5 meters (16’ 4 1/2 “) in diameter. Something that visitors won’t see is the immense 10 foot steel reinforced concrete cube buried below the observatory floor that provides a firm base for the telescope mounting. You can see pictures of the construction of the observatory.
Since first light (opening night on October 21st, 2006), over 90,000 visitors have put their eyeball to our telescope's lens. This includes school children participating in field trips to the Riparian Preserve for daytime solar viewing. In addition to our regular schedule of viewing on Friday and Saturday evenings (weather permitting), additional telescopes are available for free public viewing on the second Friday of each month from sunset till about 9:30pm. If you are interested in purchasing a telescope, this is a great way to view a variety of telescopes and learn from the experience of volunteers from the East Valley Astronomy Club. There is also an astronomy related talk the second Friday of each month which takes place at 7:30pm in the adjoining public library. These Sky Watch programs are a joint presentation of the Gilbert Riparian Institute and the East Valley Astronomy Club. The lectures are free for members of the Riparian Institute, and for the general public a donation of $5 is requested and appreciated (but not required). We hope that you enjoy your visit, and are grateful to the foresight of the Gilbert Rotary Club, the Town of Gilbert, and our many East Valley Astronomy Club volunteers for their unique contribution to public astronomy education.
The Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory is jointly managed by the Riparian Institute and volunteers from the East Valley Astronomy Club. For announcements of special events and programs please check the Riparian Institute website at www.riparianinstitute.org
The observatory is also available for private viewing sessions. Please contact the Observatory Manager for reservation information.