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UNT Insider | December 2006 Issue | Insider Alum Star Gazing

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Insider Alum Star Gazing

From a UNT News Service press release

Rafes Urban Astronomy Center

UNT installed two dome telescopes at the new Rafes Urban Astronomy Center.

At a Glance

What: Star party and public open houses beginning at sunset the first Saturday of each month. UNT alumni also can visit for special outreach programs.

Where: UNT's Rafes Urban Astronomy Center, 3250 Tom Cole Road (FW Mapsco 345E); site is west of Denton Municipal Airport.

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Visuals: Families, youth groups and astronomy buffs are invited to the center to use a variety of telescopes and binoculars to observe stars, planets and the Moon.

Contact: (940) 369-7655 or

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- The North Central Texas region's newest site for stargazing opened in November on roughly two acres of land west of the municipal airport in Denton.

UNT's Rafes Urban Astronomy Center houses the lab portion of the university's astronomy program, which is the largest non-science major program of its kind in the nation.

The center also offers a variety of programs for the North Texas community, school districts and alumni. Alumni interested in the unique opportunity to be among the first to participate in various stargazing outreach programs and get a close-up look at the stars, planets and the Moon should call (940) 369-7655 or e-mail

Ron DiIulio, planetarium and astronomy lab director at UNT and a NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System Ambassador, says "there is not a facility or program like it in Texas."

The land for the center was donated by Richard Rafes, former senior vice president for administration. Previously, labs were conducted at an old Nike missile base site north of Denton, but light pollution from nearby new developments caused problems.

DiIulio says the program's existing Unitron telescope dome was moved to the new site and was converted to a solar telescope. A second domed telescope, donated by a NASA scientist, also was installed last spring.

The center currently has one classroom building and three telescope "huts" where four people at a time will be able to view the sky. Plans are in the works to build a fourth telescope hut and an open-air amphitheater.

DiIulio says the amphitheater could be used by businesses for meetings or parties.

Rafes Urban Astronomy Center

"If we can get businesses to help us with this, the public can see what their money is paying for," DiIulio says. "Groups can rent out the property for star parties and the like, and there will be opportunities for corporate sponsorship."

With no parking facilities, the center is served by a shuttle bus from the UNT campus. Future plans include the addition of a parking area and a Challenger Center to house astronomy displays.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108
Contact: Rafael McDonnell 940-565-4835

Read other stories in this issue:
December 2006

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The UNT Insider, a monthly e-newsletter, connects UNT alumni and others to the university by letting you hear directly from President Gretchen M. Bataille.

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