The multi-functional, non-profit International Dark Sky Discovery Center (IDSDC) will be unique. Why? Because no facility in the world focuses on dark sky preservation as a portal to better understanding astronomy, the space program, the universe, and life on earth.
This approach will establish the IDSDC as an international centerpiece for supporting the growing world-wide interest in preserving dark skies and understanding that relationship to the well-being of humans, plants, and animals.
The privately-funded $17 million IDSDC will be located in Fountain Hills, Arizona and will fulfill its mission with science-based education and experiences that will support STEM programs and foster partnerships with Arizona State University and area community colleges and high schools. Additionally, the facility will address the rapidly growing interest in astrotourism, thus serving as an attraction for the state of Arizona and beyond.
The approximately 15,000 square-foot structure includes four major components:
Dark Sky Observatory: A first-class domed observatory housing a large, research-grade telescope with provisions for visual observing, astrophotography, and live broadcasts
Hyperspace Planetarium: A state-of-the-art, tilted dome planetarium with immersive digital technology
Inspiration Theater: A multi-use, 150-tiered-seat theater/auditorium/lecture hall with the latest 8K projection technology and sound systems
Immersion Zone: A 3,000 square-foot exhibit hall with
interactive and engaging educational displays, traveling exhibits, virtual
reality stations, and a featured Dark Sky Immersion Experience.
Sometimes referred to as a dark sky oasis in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun, the Town of Fountain Hills is the ideal location for the planned facility. In 2018, Fountain Hills was designated as the 17th International Dark Sky Community in the world. With the added rare distinction of being near a metropolitan area, this prestigious award generated widespread publicity nationally and in many parts of the world.
The facility will be located in the Town Center and thus be easily accessible to out-of-town participants and users. The location also maximizes synergistic opportunities with the surrounding adjacent institutions such as the River of Time Museum, Fountain Hills Library, Community Center, Community Garden, and Town Hall.
The anticipated uses of the facility are wide-ranging with opportunities for people of all ages. As detailed later in this document, examples include working partnerships with other institutions, lectures, advanced placement courses, astronomy camps, lessons in astrophotography, exhibit competitions, video productions, star parties, tours, visits, receptions, and much more.
In support of the dark sky theme, the community holds annual Dark Sky Festivals and monthly star parties, has installed large signs at the community entrances to denote the International Dark Sky Community designation, and has begun design work for a solar system walk (information about planets proportionately spaced along a walkway). In addition, Fountain Hills has a very active Astronomy Club and the community is continuing its efforts to minimize light pollution and protect its naturally dark skies.
With successful completion, the IDSDC will serve as a unique attraction for Arizona and will expose children and adults alike to the wonders of the universe.