The Carlton Observatory Project:
Details & Project Scope

The Carlton Observatory Project started as an abstract aspiration, hatched by a desire to place a valuable scientific asset in our small town as a resource to cultivate broad community connections and encourage creative scientific exploration. As we rolled out our most impressive assets, our telescopes and the engaged minds behind them, we quickly discovered how eager our local, and even regional, community is to form a like-minded curiosity with the night sky and all the information it holds.

The Carlton Observatory is an organized 501c3 as of May 2018.

The Project has two distinct components:

  • The Observatory is a 16 foot diameter two-story room at the south end of the building housing an award winning 15 inch diameter Newtonian Reflector. There will be a state of the art ASH dome on top which will open to the night sky. The public viewing area will be on the second floor surrounding the telescope. The room below the telescope on the first floor will be a combination classroom and library.
  • The Planetarium includes a GOTO 27 projector with a complete sound system, 20 foot diameter dome, and seating for 45 people. This will be housed inside at the north end of the building. When it is fully operational the planetarium will be used by teachers, residents of all ages, and visitors to Yamhill County for education, events, star parties, lectures and entertainment.

Each component will allow us the medium to create unique and interactive experiences and programs, using the language of scientific observation and communal discovery inside a multi-use facility. Our intention is to create a beloved community resource, one that will encourage and inspire students, parents, educators and visitors to learn, celebrate, and experience science in a whole new way.

The timeline is anticipated to take multiple years. It involves construction of a multi-use building. However, the project has been generously supported by an enthusiastic and engaged community including significant assistance from local families, businesses and most importantly educators.  We believe the support from educators is particularly enthusiastic because it is recognized that there is a wide gap in federal and state funding for direct science programming. The educators to whom we have spoken see the Carlton Observatory as a much-needed resource to inspire their students and to enhance and sustain a broader science curriculum. With much appreciation for our team, an award winning 15-inch Newtonian Reflector has been donated to the project and will be the main telescope permanently housed in the observatory dome. In addition, the 45-seat planetarium has been donated to the project from Pomona College in Los Angeles.  It is equipped with twenty-seven projectors, a twenty-foot diameter dome, and a sound system. These donations to the project will enable us to provide programs every day or night of the year even if the skies are overcast.

To that end, it is a primary programming goal and project objective of The Carlton Observatory to create an educational endowment which will ensure that The Carlton Observatory will be available to every Oregon science teacher and their students for free. This is the target audience of the project. There are no limitations for age, number, gender, or ethnicity.

Partnerships with other groups and organizations have already begun. We have received our first grant from First federal to create the conceptual drawing of the observatory. We have received generous donations from many individuals already and educational partnerships with Yamhill County Schools are planned. Additionally we will be working with the City of Carlton, Yamhill Carlton Together Cares, Visit Carlton and Yamhill County Cultural Coalition.

This is an expensive endeavor to undertake. There will be many milestones and budget entries over the next few years. We want our patrons to support us in achieving our monetary goals by literally purchasing galaxies, planets, constellations, stars, and other interstellar objects which will then become a permanent art installation in the observatory. We feel that this arts/science hybrid donor centerpiece is the perfect representation of our desire for a space that warmly represents and encourages the imaginations of all aspects of our community. We are beginning a capital campaign to purchase the land and build this multi-use facility starting in March of 2019.

Our experienced team includes Forrest Babcock who has been an amateur astronomer since he was 16 years old. He brings to this project a 40-year career in optics design and telescope building. He will set up the lab, the library and the observatory in the finished building. Janet Zuelke has been an event planner, manager and business owner and came to astronomy in 2000 when she met Forrest. Brian Richardson owns Vinbound marketing. Sabra Mathot is a Carlton business owner. Donna Scott is a local resident with fundraising experience. We have two PHD’s who make up the education and programs advisory board.

This project has been a 10-year idea, turned into a dream, then turned into the promise of reality when we landed in Yamhill County and found unwavering support from the communities of Carlton, Yamhill and McMinnville.