It’s a baby step, for sure.
Created on November 3, a GoFundMe page for the Montauk Observatory has so far raised only a bit more than $250 of a hoped-for $25,000. The money would be used to replace rusty parts in the observatory’s inner section, which had been kept in storage for years while an agreement to find a permanent home was worked out.
Located at the upper campus of Ross School in East Hampton, the observatory is meant for the public and Ross School students to use to observe the stars—whether in person or remotely—and it has the largest professional-grade telescope on Long Island.
While a deal between the observatory and the Ross School was reached to place the observatory on school grounds this past August, it was recently discovered that the motors and mechanical parts in the inner section of the observatory dome had rusted while kept in storage. The parts and the dome of the observatory had been donated to the organization nearly six years ago, and it had been trying to find a permanent home for the observatory since then.
“We have a whole series of parts and motors that have to be replaced and, operationally, we need to get software to run the observatory and be able to manage it through the internet,” said Terry Bienstock, president of the observatory. “It’s probably 90 percent complete from the outer structure, but the inner structure is not complete at all.”
Some parts that Mr. Bienstock said were essential to the observatory’s operation were the motors that rotate the dome and a pedestal to mount the telescope on. There is also the need for new parts to re-install the top revealing section of the observatory after a major storm blew it off two months ago. Mr. Bienstock said that the $25,000 goal was set to compensate for the purchase of the new parts, the software and to keep up operations for an entire year.
The observatory is a nonprofit educational charity that has been hosting educational events on physical science throughout the East End for the past decade, with the Ross School itself hosting astronomy lectures on behalf of the observatory for the last six years. Ross will continue that relationship by hosting a lecture with renowned author Dava Sobel at the school’s Senior Thesis Center on Saturday, December 10, at 7 p.m. Those who attend the free lecture and contribute $100 or more to the observatory will receive an autographed copy of Ms. Sobel’s new book, “The Glass Universe.”
“We’ve never gone out with a campaign to fund anything,” Mr. Bienstock said. “We wanted to wait until we had the observatory ready to go. We anticipated that this would be the kickoff of a campaign. It’s such a small amount of money that we need to get this going, and we’ve been doing programs in the community for 10 years now—everything that we’ve done has been for free. We’re finally at the stage where we need some help to get this over the hump and get this thing operational.”
Donna McCormick, executive director of the observatory, said it has been taking in donations from charitable donors and hopes to have more in the near future.
“Most of these telescope farms, where you can log on and get some time to operate the telescope from your home or on your own, charge quite a bit and they have a long waiting list,” Ms. McCormick said. “So we’re hoping to provide access to the locals on the East End, with a little emphasis on the students, especially for their projects.”
Those looking to contribute can visit gofundme.com/MontaukObservatory to make donations.