By Adam Waltz
PHOENIX – GILBERT – It’s hard to miss the egg-shaped building smack dab in the middle of Gilbert’s Riparian Preserve. Once you get past the trees, you’ll arrive at the tiny entrance with a big secret.
“It’s really a marvelous thing to look at how wonderful and beautiful the universe is,” said Claude Haynes, the manager of Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory.
The Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory was built in 2005 and is run by the East Valley Astronomy Club. The 16-by-16-foot observatory is Gilbert’s own gateway to the stars. It’s a small room, but the feature piece makes it seem endless.
“The telescope itself; there’s a 16-inch mirror in the back. The light travels on the corrective plate which focuses the light on the mirror, it bounces to the secondary mirror, and out through a hole in the primary mirror which leads to the eyepiece,” said Haynes.
Using a computer, Haynes sets the telescope to known positions of stars and planets.
“I’m looking at Jupiter. I’m looking at Saturn. I’m seeing them as they appear right now. It isn’t quite the same unless you’re standing right in front of it,” said Haynes.
The observatory is open to the public on Friday and Saturday evenings from sundown to 9:30 p.m.
“I’ll have families come and it’s not just the little kids. It’s Grandma who has never looked through a telescope. And the first time they look at Saturn or Jupiter the common expression is ‘Oh my God,’ and I don’t think they’re cursing. It’s really a religious experience,” said Haynes.