Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

Badlands Observatory offers a glimpse into the universe with night sky tours

Horsehead Nebula imaged Nov 21, 2020

QUINN, S.D.  — In the little town of Quinn, South Dakota, a 3,000 pound telescope is collecting data about the universe.

The Badlands Observatory was built in 2000. It’s location was selected because of the open spaces and smaller communities that result in South Dakota having darker skies compared to other parts of the country.

Ron Dyvig established Badlands Observatory as a private facility for research and education. For over 10 years he contributed data to the Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in support of their mapping project for Near Earth Objects.

The Newtonian Telescope was designed and fabricated by Ron Dyvig, director of the Badlands Observatory.

In later years, the Observatory primarily provides telescope time to institutions and students. It is an educational affiliate of the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium.

The Badlands Observatory, a private facility co-owned by Dyvig and Teresa Hofer, houses a dozen telescopes, including the Newtonian telescope, designed and fabricated by Dyvig.  Astrophotography is also an important division at the observatory. The current setup includes the 26” Newtonian Reflector and Vixen 114mm F/5.3 APO Refractor telescopes. In use is a 6” f/15 Jaegers Refractor and an SBIG ST-8 CCD camera for guiding. Imaging cameras include an unmodified Nikon D800 DSLR and a AWO ASI174MM (Mono) with an Optec IFW filter wheel and Optec Remote Focuser. Pixinsight and Photoshop softwares are applied for processing

The Newtonian telescope weighs about 3,000 pounds. Dyvig says buying a comparable commercial telescope would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Since he constructed it himself, the price tag is roughly the amount of a new/used SUV.

Night sky tours, (also referred to as stargazing) is becoming increasingly popular in the region where the observatory is located. From the history gallery and viewing deck to the observatory, visitors have a chance to get a glimpse into the universe. Dyvig says that while some constellations are visible with the naked eye in the dark skies surrounding the Badlands Observatory, it only gets better looking at things through a telescope.

The observatory offers both Dark Sky and Bright Moon tours.

For more information, go on line to https://www.badlandsobservatory.com/  and see more on Facebook. Dyvig reminds those interested in night sky tours at the observatory to pay attention to the weather, since skies need to be clear for viewing.

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