Doctor Jon Swift has been overseeing the renovations of the Thacher observatory for some time now. The most recent development was the installation of a new dome that has none of the problems the old one had, like getting stuck in its rotation every so often and needing a shove to keep moving. The new dome has a brand new internal-conduit electricity system that keeps the dome operating smoothly, and can even be controlled remotely so observation can continue without requiring somebody to be there.
Before the dome went up, the whole building was renovated for the sole purpose of astronomy. Though it’s served as a faculty residence intermittently in the past, Swift says it’s been “streamlined” to make it the most practical it can be in its new era of use. It now features energy-efficient white and red LED lighting and temperature control. The next step on the horizon is installing the much-awaited, “quarter-million-dollar optics” telescope. In preparation, our maintenance team has laid gravel around the observatory to reduce disastrous dust contamination that would require another 10,000 dollars to clean. Swift says, “Dust is like, a thing now.” Additionally, the floor of the observatory has been completely isolated from the 10,000 pound concrete pier the telescope will be precisely positioned on, so no movement in and around the building will affect observation.
As Doctor Swift gives this laundry list of what’s going on at the observatory, his face lights up like he’s talking about his own child. At one point, describing the way the isolated electricity system and advanced software work, he exclaims, “It’s alive!” He’s incredibly dedicated to this endeavor. And his inspiration? Simply put: “Thacher students.” He wants to engage as many people as possible in the new wave of astronomy at the Thacher School.