A fresh coat of paint isn’t the only new thing for the observatory at Enid High.
The observatory, officially called the Dr. Nancy Currie-Gregg Observatory, is getting a full-on facelift, thanks to a drive for funding that exceeded its goal.
“The campaign goal was $50,000, which we have reached and exceeded,” said Tim Gregg, an Enid High graduate and husband of former astronaut Dr. Nancy Currie-Gregg, the namesake for the observatory.
Several Sundays ago, primer was applied to the observatory, and then, the following week, the observatory was painted a color Gregg calls “telescope white,” explaining most modern observatories are that particular color.
“That (observatory) has been silver for decades, perhaps dating back to when it was constructed in ’63-’64,” Gregg said. “I think it looks as sharp as can be — it’s a major first step toward getting the telescope in the shape we want it to be.”
From there, workers from a Durango, Colo.-based company called Observatory Solutions will continue its work, painting the interior, removing rust and doing other things to make the dome ready for a new telescope to be put in place.
And speaking of the telescope, one thing yet to be determined is precisely what kind of scope will be installed. But there’s on thing for sure: The new telescope will be called the Mabry Family Telescope, because the family was instrumental in financing the new telescope.
Jim Mabry said he and his wife Betsy attended an initial presentation on the observatory back on Feb. 28. At that time, they left their names with Currie-Gregg and Gregg as individuals interested in helping out with the observatory and telescope.
“My wife and I, we were members of the Enid High School class of ’64, which was the first class to actually use the observatory under Mr. Smeltzer,” Jim Mabry said.
Betsy is a former science teacher at Waller Middle School, and Mabry said he and his eight other siblings “all felt we had received an excellent education at Enid High School that had prepared us for successful college and graduate college experiences.”
Gregg followed up with Jim, asking if he could take on the task of getting financing arranged for the new telescope.
“I contacted all of my siblings, and we all felt like it was the perfect opportunity to do something as a family to benefit Enid High School,” Mabry said.
The rest, as they say, is history: Gregg and company brought in the $50,000 they needed, and beyond, for full renovations to the observatory.
Some of the money will be used to purchase a new controlling mechanism for the telescope. Now, instead of moving the telescope by hand, it will be done electronically. This will be especially helpful for viewing objects such as the moon and planets that move across the sky more quickly than stars or nebulae. The telescope will be able to track the object, so no readjustment is required.
On top of that, there will be a system that will allow students to take images — photographs, in layman’s terms — which will allow students and faculty to further study the night sky.
The former telescope was “a state-of-the-art instrument, and remained a sound workhorse,” Gregg said. “This telescope will do a lot more — it will enable students to see more, with time exposure, ensuring seeing fainter objects.”
All these additions might sound like a lot of work, but Gregg is anticipating everything will be finished by the end of the semester, followed by some form of celebration for the community.
“The EHS observatory has served a significant scientific learning purpose for students over the past several decades,” said Enid Superintendent Darrell Floyd. “It is a historical treasure. It is a unique structure that very few high schools have. We are grateful for those forward-thinking individuals in the past that saw the need for such a wonderful learning environment, and we are thankful for those who continued to have interest in it and who have worked so hard to see its effective renovation come to fruition. It will continue to serve as a highly effective learning tool for students, and the community, for years to come.”
For more information on the Dr. Nancy Currie-Gregg Observatory at the Mabry Family Telescope, visit wewillfindstars.space.
DID YOU KNOW
Enid High School has been working with Oklahoma Historical Society to place the observatory in the register of historic places. Darrell Floyd, Enid Public Schools superintendent, says the application is making progress. “I think the historical marker designation of the EHS observatory raises the level of its significance,” he said. “People for decades to come will be able to read that marker and very quickly grasp a summary of how it came about and how it continues to help students.”
Story provided by: Enid News & Eagle
Written by: Joe Malan