The history of our dome
By Ray Yeager
In June 2013, Sky’s The Limit added a large astronomical dome and telescope to its campus in Twentynine Palms. The 15-foot dome was manufactured by Technical Innovations and was graciously donated by Joshua Springs Calvary Church and School of Yucca Valley. It had been located on the roof of their gymnasium, but was no longer being used.
Celestron, the largest telescope manufacturer in the world, donated the telescope. The scope is a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain that includes the CGE Pro Computerized Mount. The telescope is mounted on an adjustable pier. This unique design electronically adjusts the telescope to accommodate wheelchair users and small children.
The roof of the dome rotates to follow the telescope as it tracks objects in the night sky. The 14-inch mirror not only collects light from objects in our own Milky Way galaxy, such as stunning open and globular star clusters and nebula, but also makes it possible to observe galaxies millions of light years away. The planets, such as Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter can be brought into sharp detail and the moon dazzles viewers with its mountains, craters, and more. Large state-of-the-art eyepieces make for easy viewing.
Relocating the dome was an interesting project - accomplished entirely by volunteers. A crane lifted the dome from the gym roof and set it gently down in the school’s parking lot. There, it was dis-assembled into its four quadrants, each nut and bolt carefully categorized. The quadrants were transported from Yucca Valley to Twentynine Palms by trailer.
In the STL campus parking lot, volunteers cleaned, waxed, and re-assembled the dome and readied it for the crane. The dome was placed atop a seven-foot cylindrical structure, which had been constructed earlier. A heavy steel baseplate for the Celestron telescope mount had been anchored into a core at the center of the building’s slab. This is to isolate the scope from any movement of the foundation and surrounding slab.
Installation of the telescope and mount followed, involving careful calibration.
Public star parties and special private viewings using this fine instrument are accompanied by Sky’s The Limit’s knowledgeable staff of docents and guest astronomers.
In addition to donated materials and volunteer labor, this project was made possible by a grant from the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. The funds were allocated by Third District Supervisor Neil Derry from his budget allocation to help finance unbudgeted priorities in his district. The funds were administered by the Basin Wide Foundation a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.