Director - Mark Urwiller
Assistant Directors: Jay Rasmussen, Kay Wolfe, and Dan Glomski
Update 10-14-2017 Two items - first, the observatory website has been migrated to a new server setup. The old URL will continue to get you here until that domain expires. Please bookmark www.hcobs.org to visit this site in the future. Second, the stakes for the exact location of the observatory have been moved to accommodate those who might have trouble navigating grass and rougher ground. It's looking like a tractor will not be needed for smoothing of the site. The building will site above the ground slightly to allow for ventilation underneath. The scope works best when the temp of the scope and the building stay the same as the air as it cools after sunset. I have found a wonderful volunteer from Grand Island, Lynn Lilienthal, who is retired from the service and has access to a cement mixer, an auger for footings, and great construction and electrical skills. The only additional help needed will be for moving the prefab walls in place when the time comes. I may have to contact the local high schools for some student help :) Currently the drawings for the new floor are being made up. I also have to work around the schedules of my volunteers. They are wonderful!
Update - 9-29-17 After further consideration, the stakes placed for the observatory will likely be moved next week. This will accommodate elderly visitors and allow them to get into the observatory more easily. We will be attempting to place the building where dirt work to level the site won't be necessary. The site will first need to be cleared of grass. A tractor has been volunteered for this. It looks like we have found someone with an auger to drill holes for footings and posts to support the roof when it's rolled off. The floor of the observatory will be redesigned. Electricity will be brought to the site soon. We still need "muscle" to move walls when the time comes! Call or e-mail if you can help!
Update - 8-7-2017 Stakes have now been placed for the observatory location. A trencher has been volunteered to run underground electricity to the building. I am going up to the site today to measure the length of cable needed. Further work will most likely wait until after the eclipse :) We still need a power post hole digger (8 inches - 4ft deep) or auger (from tractor) to dig footings. I will be contacting the newspaper and radio station again soon asking for help for moving walls etc. Thanks to all who have contributed so far. I can't wait to share the observatory with you!
Photos From The Site of Honey Creek Observatory 7-11-2017
Approximate Location - To The Right of Where The Cows Are Standing (Above)
The "Neighbors" Are Curious!
Looking South From Site Area. The Cabin On This Site Is The Only Building On This Road!
A New Site Has Been Found!
A site north of O'Neill has been found off from Road 883 west of Hwy 281. It has all of the criteria I was hoping for - good roads and easy access to the site, electricity nearby (in fact very little modification may need to be done), no lights on the site or visible from the site, open skies free of obstruction, and most importantly - wonderful hosts who are also excited about sharing this facility with the schools and public! Here is a map which shows, if you zoom in, light pollution areas near O’Neill. If you follow Hwy 281 north and zoom in to Road 883 (Johnson's 3 Eagles Road) you will find this area is almost at the darkest possible on the light pollution scale. (The darkest sites in Nebraska are about 100 miles west, south of Valentine.) This new observatory will be VERY dark and reasonably near O'Neill. Most city dwellers have never seen a sky this dark! I am very lucky to have found it! There are no plans to put up signs on Hwy 281 or on Road 883. A link for directions will be placed on this page or will be sent to those interested in visiting once the observatory is up and running. As in Kearney we want to have visitors register and let us know how many will be coming. There will be no cost involved! It will take a few weeks to rebuild the building, get the telescope re-oriented, and re-set the electronics. I will post progress on this site and will make sure the Holt County Independent posts an article announcing this facility is open! Oh, one more thing, the observatory at the new location will now be called Honey Creek Observatory - named after a small creek on the property! The observatory web pages will continue, but will be accessed under a new domain/URL address. A redirect will most likely be posted for a while.
New Staff Members Will Be Needed In The O'Neill Area!
Before anyone gets too excited, these are not paid positions. The "pay" is in helping people see and enjoy the night sky. What qualifications do you need? Not much. You only need to be interested in learning about the night sky and willing to come to public observing sessions to help out. This includes helping to set up equipment, helping to park cars, helping people get to and from the building, and answering questions. Are there age requirements? Not really, but if you are not old enough to drive you will need to have someone bring you here and back. Is there a limit as to how many staff members we need? No, the more the merrier. If you are interested, e-mail the observatory at the link found at the bottom of any page on this site. We look forward to hearing from you.
News of Observatory Move Reaches O'Neill and Holt County
The article containing the announcement can be found here: Holt County Independant. I have been scouting areas, mostly south of O'Neill for suitable locations. I certainly found some, but I haven't found anyone willing to sell a small parcel (5 acres) of their land! I have a few more places to check out and have looked at some sites to the north and east as well. If you are reading this and know someone in the O'Neill area that would be able to help with this project, please let me know. If you want to help us move sometime late spring or early next summer, or help set the building back up in the O'Neill area - please e-mail me or call 308-293-5776!
Seven Hills Observatory Enters Its 21st Year!
It's hard to believe the observatory was built 20 years old in August! Over the years hundreds of visitors have come from lots of states here in the US and several other countries! Community support has been wonderful. The observatory will be moving to the O'Neill area in 2017. Operations and viewing for the public will end in the winter of 2017 so the building and scope can be disassembled and moved in the summer of 2017. If you want to come out and visit, you have about one more year to get that done. Come on out!
Want to help Seven Hills Observatory move to the O’Neill area?
I have been teaching physics and physical science at Kearney High School since the fall of 1986 and before that at Columbus Scotus. My wife, Kathy, recently became the program director at Valley Hope in O’Neill. I will be retiring in the spring of 2017 and will be moving the observatory to the O’Neill Nebraska area sometime that summer. This will be a major undertaking and the eventual location will need to meet several criteria.
One of the considerations will be cost. Seven Hills Observatory contains wonderful equipment which was acquired over 30 years. I had to do a lot of “moonlighting” and hard work to make it happen. The building itself was built by volunteer labor in 1996 with materials discounted by suppliers in the Kearney area that knew I intended to share the facility with the public. This will also be the case in O’Neill.
I have friends in Central Nebraska who will be helping with the physical moving of the building although other/local help is certainly welcome. The cost of the land needed to place my observatory and home will certainly be a major consideration. The location will also be constrained by several factors.
First and foremost will be the amount of light pollution in the chosen location. Here is a map which shows the areas near O’Neill which offer the best skies. If you zoom in to the O’Neill area, you will find the darkest skies are approximately in a radius of about 15 miles from town. Kathy’s job requires her to be within about 15 minutes of the facility, so this will work out.
I have a deep love for Sandhills, so my preference at this point is to live and put the observatory south of O’Neill somewhere close to Highway 281. Other considerations include having a paved road – at least nearby. This is important if Kathy needs to get to her facility in an emergency. It will also facilitate placement of a modular home if necessary.
Having access to electricity is also paramount. If the road to the observatory already has electric lines; this will cut costs. The building location needs a site in which car headlights at night are not a major problem. The telescope is designed to do astrophotography. A long exposure photo can be ruined by the lights of an untimely car passing by. Placement of the observatory site where cars from roads are not directly visible will be desirable. I will be trying to avoid rural farm lights as well.
Other considerations - with the wet spring the O’Neill area has had this year, it’s important I find a “dry” spot which is not on as vernal pond.
At this point areas near Roads 859, 857, or 856 look promising. If you know of someone who owns land and/or a preexisting home in these areas, willing to sell a small parcel (5 to 10 acres), I would appreciate any information you could pass on! I have no problem having cattle continuing to graze nearby. In fact, I would enjoy it!
Mark Urwiller, 4711 Heather Lane, Kearney Nebraska 68845, 308-293-5776 email@example.com
The Kearney Community Learning Center became interested in the issue of light pollution. They did some research and also contacted the IDA (International Dark Sky Association). Together the kids and the observatory contacted the Kearney city administrators about lighting in the city. The kids conducted numerous programs for the public and city council. The city found they had not conveyed the requirements of a light ordinance, created several year ago, to the NPPD, which supplies the city's public lighting. The city took action to rectify this and NPPD even agreed to replace some incorrect lighting recently placed. Seven Hills Observatory applauds both the city and the kids! The better lighting will create safer driving conditions at night, provide even better security, save money for the city and us taxpayers, and have the side effect of helping improve the night sky conditions for visitors to the observatory. You can't do better than that!
For many years the observatory has been employing an old set of wireless bridges and Yagi antennae to send internet access to the building. We have upgraded to a system of Ubiquiti Nanostation M5s which are capable of transferring as much as 150 meg cable for miles! The computers in the observatory for public use are not "race horses", but they are plenty good enough to display the astronomical software we have and we have great internet access! We have also installed a wireless access point which allows visitors to bring their own devices to access astronomical information while visiting.
Staff Members Needed!
Seven Hills Observatory was built in August 1996. Since that time many of the original builders and staff have moved away. We are always looking for some new staff members. Before anyone gets too excited, these are not paid positions. The "pay" is in helping people see and enjoy the night sky. What qualifications do you need? Not much. You only need to be interested in learning about the night sky and willing to come to public observing sessions to help out. This includes helping to set up equipment, helping to park cars, helping people get up and down the hill to the building and back, and answering questions. Are there age requirements? Not really, but if you are not old enough to drive you will need to have someone bring you here and back. Is there a limit as to how many staff members we need? No, the more the merrier. If you are interested, e-mail the observatory at the link found at the bottom of any page on this site. We look forward to hearing from you.
The Platte Valley Astronomical Observers
Members of the observatory staff are delighted to participate in a "society" of amateur astronomers in the area - The Platte Valley Astronomical Observers (PVAO) This group is currently meeting the 4th Thursday of every month at the Audubon Rowe Sanctuary south of Gibbon Nebraska. Here is a link for directions on Google Maps:
Meeting times are 7:30 PM. Join us both here at the observatory and in this club! Check it out at this link:
The Platte Valley Astronomical Observers
Presentations Available For Public\Club Meetings
We offer public presentations for community meetings etc. - free of charge (of course donations are always welcome). If you're looking for a program for your group, please contact us!
Seven Hills Observatory staff often receive inquiries about astronomical equipment. Quite often people are looking for a birthday or Christmas present. If you are looking to buy a telescope, in some cases these have to be ordered early. We don't recommend department store telescopes.
If you would be interested in purchasing astronomical equipment, give us a call. We would be happy to give you our opinion on what type of equipment would be right for you!
You can reach me and set up an appointment by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or you can phone 308-293-5776
Keep Looking Around!
Mark Urwiller - Web Page Administrator
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