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 Post subject: Sterling Hill Mine Observatory
PostPosted: Mon Aug 29, 2005 6:58 pm 
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Location: Above the Sterling Hill Mine
Business is looking up at Ogdensburg mine
Museum adds an observatory
Sunday, August 21, 2005
BY JIM LOCKWOOD
Star-Ledger Staff

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum in Sussex County has gone from the Stone Age to the Space Age.

Here, miners once descended 2,550 feet -- or nearly two Empire State Buildings -- to tap the richest body of zinc ore in the world.

Now, the former mine in Ogdensburg, which became a museum in 1989 and is listed on the state and national registers of historic places, has added a telescope observatory to its repertoire of tunnels and fluorescent minerals.

Touring an underground mine and gazing at stars may seem to be contradictory pursuits, but they actually can be complementary, said Bill Kroth, a member of the museum's board of directors and amateur astronomer behind the observatory project.

"It seemed to be a natural progression, from underground geology to astronomy," Kroth said. "It's all science. Everything (in the universe) is composed of the same elements. It's the same stuff, just in different combinations."

Visitors who come to the mine to see rare fluorescent minerals found in meandering tunnels also will be able -- on certain nights -- to peer at the heavens through telescopes in the observatory.

The white dome built a few months ago contains three telescopes -- a 20-inch and a 12.5-inch reflector telescopes for typical night-sky viewing, and a hydrogen-alpha solar telescope to see fiery flares dancing off the sun.

The idea for the observatory arose about four years ago, when Kroth conducted a tour at the mine for a school group and brought along one of his own telescopes for a mini-astronomy lesson at night after the mine tour was over.

"I said, 'Gee, it would be nice to have an observatory' there, recalled Kroth, a Wood-Ridge, Bergen County, resident who works as a civil engineer.

The project began more than two years ago. Along the way, Kroth was joined by Ogdensburg resident Gordon Powers, who works as a mechanical engineer at Picatinny Arsenal in Rockaway Township and also is an amateur astronomer.

Earlier this year, the two men and other volunteers constructed the observatory from a kit. It took about seven weekends to build the 170-square-foot stainless-steel and fiberglass structure that has a rotating dome and retractable shutter on the roof. All of the work, including building a concrete pad for it and installing electricity, was donated by museum volunteers.

On a recent stargazing night last month, Kroth trained a telescope on the Ring Nebula 2,000 light-years from Earth, which means the light seen through the telescope at that time left the nebula 2,000 years ago.

The mining museum also has meteorites on display, including chunks of the moon and Mars that were blasted off their surfaces by asteroids and sucked in by Earth's gravity.


"I think it's exciting to hold a piece of Mars or the moon in your hand when you're looking at those bodies" through a telescope, Kroth said.

The museum's thousands of visitors each year are mostly schoolchildren who walk through dank, craggy tunnels to glimpse fluorescent minerals that glow eerily under ultraviolet light.

Now, the observatory is envisioned to be another attraction for school or scouting groups, as well as for various other events or celebrations, such as birthdays or anniversaries, Kroth said.

"We're just trying to plant the science spark," Kroth said. "It's all part of getting kids interested in science. If you get the science bug when you're young, it stays with you."

Or, as Powers put it, "Once a science geek, always a science geek."

A new astronomy club at the museum also has formed and has about 30 members. The Sterling Hill Astronomy Group tries to meet twice a month, when the moon is not out and it's not raining or cloudy. They have held three sessions so far.

The cost for regular monthly viewing is $25 per person, or $35 for a family membership, and stargazing will take place year-round. For more information, see the museum Web site at www.sterlinghill.org.


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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2006 4:47 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 18, 2005 11:12 am
Posts: 385
Miner Mike,

Are you still giving tours? I never got my private tour and neither did Miner Frank. Can you give us a tour of the Sterling Hill Mine sometime very soon. Maybe we can get a group of mine researchers in all of our gear to go in and take the tour. You still know the people up there right? :wink:


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