The stars at night are big and bright – and starting this summer, visitors to UNT's Rafes Urban Astronomy Center will be able to view them from the comfort of a new outdoor amphitheater.
The amphitheater, which will seat about 50 to 60 people, was funded in part through a $25,000 donation from the M.R. and Evelyn Hudson Foundation of Keller.
Ron DiIulio, director of UNT's astronomy lab program, says this is an important addition to the center.
"The outdoor seating area has been part of our long-range plan for community outreach at the Rafes Urban Astronomy Center. It will make our facility more attractive for community groups wanting to hold 'star parties' at the center," he says. "More than 100 people come out to the center on the first Saturday of the month to attend similar public parties."
DiIulio says, "We've used recycled materials in the construction of the amphitheater. It will be adjustable, rather than permanently mounting the bench seating to the circular concrete theater area. We chose sturdy, movable benches, allowing our audiences to face specific areas in the sky, or even sit in circular fashion around the center of the amphitheater."
Since the amphitheater was finished a few weeks ago, several scouting groups and two professional organizations have scheduled events at the center. It was built in an area between two domed telescopes, and features a digital projection system for prepared programs. The amphitheater will be dedicated this fall.
M.R. Hudson was the founder of both Hudson Oil Co. and Fisca Oil Co. The foundation was established in 1992 to further Hudson's lifelong interest in supporting community development, education, medical research, the arts, children's issues and racial and religious diversity.
More than 9,000 UNT students have used the Rafes facilities since they opened. Four telescope huts, each housing four telescopes, were constructed for astronomy student laboratories. The two domes were assembled on site in September 2006 for community outreach programs.
The Rafes Urban Astronomy Center is named after Richard Rafes, former vice president of administrative affairs at UNT, and his wife, Tommye, who donated the land for the center. It is the first of its kind in a major metropolitan area in the United States and was dedicated in April 2007.