Take a journey into the heavens at the Kiwanis Chico Community Observatory
by MaryRose Lovgren
“There’s an observatory in Chico?”
I don’t know what’s more astonishing about this statement-- the fact that there is a bona-fide observatory here in Chico, complete with a stateof-the-art outdoor amphitheatre, or that there are still people that aren’t aware of it. So I tracked down Kris Koenig, the observatory’s director, to his studio in North Chico to find out more about this Chico treasure.
What is your involvement with the observatory?
“‘I’m the director. I supervise all the volunteers that are out there, and coordinate the building projects. (I) spearhead the whole thing.” Koenig also runs an Emmy-winning video production company and is currently working on a promotional development DVD for the largest observatory in the world. (He’s a busy guy.)
What can someone expect to see when they go there? www.growingupchico.com
“There’s the visual experience, where you come in and look through the telescope with your naked eye. You can look for anything from the moon to galaxies that are millions of light years away. Then the other option, with the addition of our new outdoor planetarium, is to look at a small hand-held monitor, which broadcasts a video signal from the other telescope. On the telescopes we have two video cameras: one is for planetary work, and the other telescope is for wide-field deep space. On that telescope you see galaxies and nebulas and star clusters. Those signals go out through a broadcast system, and we are able to combine those two video signals with pre-programmed graphics and animation so we can actually give you a little T.V. show using live animation. It’s the only public astronomy center that has that (capability). And it’s in Chico.”
How can someone become a volunteer?
growing up chico magazine
“It’s a real simple volunteer program: You show up and you’re a volunteer. Eventually, you are given a key to the place. It’s a very empowering thing for a kid. We teach them how to drive a telescope the first night they come. From that point on, they show up, and we supervise them. They run the telescope, they tell the guest what they’re looking at.” What if they don’t know the answer? “We are there to provide that answer and also educate the student. It’s a learning process all the time out there. I’ve had students correct me, and they’ll keep me on my toes. That’s a good thing.”
Upcoming Events: Kenny Lovgren and friends exploring the heavens.
Visiting the Observatory The mission of the Kiwanis Chico Community Observatory is to provide access to our universe through its telescopes for the enjoyment and education of the youth of this community and of the world. Location: 1 Observatory Way (off Wildwood Ave, approximately 1 mile in from entrance to Upper Bidwell Park) Phone: (530) 343-5635 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Check out upcoming events at chicoobservatory.com
A weekly series on astronomy featuring the Emmy Award-winning PBS series “Astronomy: Observations and Theories” will run from January through March, hosted by its writer and producer (and Observatory director) Kris Koenig. Programs will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays at the CARD Community Center, located at 545 Vallombrosa Ave. in Chico. Tickets are required. A $3 donation is requested per ticket. Students with ID are free. For Lon Glazner and son Becket investigate the information, call Jessee Allread at new handheld devices in the new outdoor 891-0557. amphitheatre.