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Observatory's new dome, elevator will open view of the heavens to all

The science museum's Kellogg Observatory hasn't opened to the stars since just before the start of the 21st century.

But in the fall, planets like Saturn and Mars and the moons for Earth and Jupiter will be among the celestial bodies visible once again from atop the Buffalo Museum of Science.

[Gallery: Kellogg Observatory dismantled for renovation]

The new stainless-steel rotating dome will replace the copper dome that had been visible from the Kensington Expressway.

"It is one of our community's icons," Marisa Wigglesworth, the museum's president and CEO, said of the domed observatory.

"I think what's happening now speaks to the rise of Buffalo," she said. "Buffalo is on this amazing upswing, and here's just another example of an amazing facility that has not been available to the public for decades."

Envisioning a celestial reawakening at the Buffalo Museum of Science

The observatory, which will stand 18 feet, 6 inches tall, will house the museum's refurbished Lundin telescope. It will be reachable for the first time by elevator, allowing access to those unable to get to the fourth floor on winding steps.

A crane in December removed the telescope, and now a skilled telescope craftsman is working on it. The made-to-order dome is expected to be delivered to the museum in mid-July.

"The historic Lundin telescope is a very large, rather romantic telescope," Wigglesworth said. "For a young person to come in and have that be their first experience, to look into the heavens and see the rings of Saturn, is the kind of thing that really makes an impact and sparks curiosity."

The telescope will be paired with software to help users locate a particular celestial body in the night sky.

The copper dome of the 1930 Kellogg Observatory at the Buffalo Museum of Science has been removed as part of the museum's ongoing restoration. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Before the observatory opens, "Buffalo in Space" – the museum's seventh and final science studio – will celebrate space and aerospace beginning Aug. 21. The fundamentals of space science will be discussed. Buffalo companies that have played a significant role in aerospace and exploration will be recalled.

The cost for the new dome, telescope restoration and space studio is $2.5 million. Erie County gave $500,000 and the City of Buffalo $525,000.

[Gallery: Kellogg Observatory through the years]

A local family, wanting to remain anonymous, has offered to match every dollar raised between now and the Aug. 21 opening of the new exhibit.

The completion of the observatory will mark a milestone, completing the museum's renovation from the first floor up, Wigglesworth said.

She expressed appreciation to those who came through financially for the projects.

"We've had such great support from the community to make this happen," Wigglesworth said.

The next big project – restoring the building's front steps – could be two years away, Wigglesworth said.

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