Fountain Hills International Dark Sky Discovery Center

In a world where 80% of people can no longer see the Milky Way from their homes, Fountain Hills stands out as a sanctuary for stargazers and astronomers alike. Nestled close to a major metropolitan area, this community allows residents and visitors to marvel at the night sky, capturing the faintest haze of the Milky Way from their backyards.

A Commitment to Dark Skies

Since its inception, Fountain Hills has maintained a robust lighting code. This dedication paid off when, in January 2018, the town was certified as the world’s 17th International Dark Sky Community. This recognition was largely due to the efforts of Joe and Nancy Bill and the Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association. However, their vision extended far beyond this achievement.

The Birth of the International Dark Sky Discovery Center

The International Dark Sky Discovery Center (IDSDC) was conceived to capitalize on Fountain Hills’ dark sky designation. This extraordinary facility will feature:

  • Dark Sky Observatory: Housing the largest telescope in the Greater Phoenix area.
  • Hyperspace Planetarium: An immersive space to explore the cosmos.
  • Inspiration Theater: Engaging presentations and shows.
  • Immersion Zone: Mixed reality and gamification experiences to deepen the understanding of dark skies and astronomy.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the IDSDC was held on April 8, coinciding with a partial solar eclipse. The event began a new chapter in scientific discovery and education for the community with hundreds in attendance that morning.

A Journey of Vision and Collaboration

The journey to this groundbreaking has been a nine-year story of vision, collaboration, and community-wide support. A visionary philanthropist donated telescopes to the local library, enabling the community to engage with astronomy. This philanthropist and his wife made a significant seven-figure donation, securing naming rights for the planetarium, now called the Craig and Ruth Gimbel Hyperspace Planetarium.

A Community and Statewide Effort

Key local and state figures played vital roles in this project. State Senator John Kavanagh supported substantial grant funding through the State Legislature. The involvement of Arizona State University (ASU) has also been crucial, with ASU President Michael Crow expressing excitement about the collaboration and the potential for groundbreaking research.

Inspiring Future Generations

The IDSDC aims to inspire the next generation of scientific minds. It will serve as a launchpad for educational journeys in STEM, attracting visitors of all ages and fostering a love for dark skies and astronomy.

Fountain Hills, with its commitment to preserving dark skies and advancing astronomical education, ensures that the beauty and wonder of the night sky remain accessible for all to see.

For more updates on the IDSDC can be found here darkskycenter.org/