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Stargazers, a new dome is in place at Buffalo Science Museum observatory

A crane lifted a new aluminum dome onto the roof of the Buffalo Museum of Science Friday so that stargazers will be able to explore outer space next year.

The Kellogg Observatory dome replaces the original patina-ed copper dome removed in June. The observatory will house the museum's refurbished Lundin telescope and will be handicap-accessible for the first time by being reachable by elevator.

"This is a great day for the Buffalo Museum of Science and in our project to restore and reopen our historic Kellogg Observatory," said Marisa Wigglesworth, the museum's president and CEO.

The observatory will reopen in spring 2018, Wigglesworth said, with a specific opening date expected to be announced soon.

The dome, which had protective coatings applied to the aluminum, was custom-made for the science museum and will rotate, just like its predecessor. The dome stands 18 feet, 6 inches tall, and weighs around 2 tons.

The museum brought in a metallurgist to determine if the copper could be saved, but found the metal was too thin and weathered to be reused. The new dome was made by a company that specializes in observatory domes.

The completion of the observatory, which has been closed since 1999, will mark a milestone for the museum, completing the museum's renovation from the first floor up.

The 8-inch Lundin refractor, which had been in the observatory since 1930, is being restored in Swarthmore, Penn., under the guidance of engineer Fred Orthlieb. The telescope was previously equipped with a new drive and slow-motion controls in 1989.

The telescope will be paired with software used with modern-day telescopes to help users locate celestial bodies in the night sky.

The roof is also being turned into event space for small gatherings, Wigglesworth said.

"Our roof is a marvelous asset, and it gives you views that you really don't see from anywhere else," she said. "So there is going to be the opportunity to be do both programming and events on our roof."

The opening of "Buffalo in Space" on the fourth floor -- the museum's seventh and final science studio -- will occur Aug. 21, succeeding "Our Place in Space."

That date will coincide with the opportunity to view the solar eclipse.

"When the stars literally align in your favor, you must capitalize on it," Wigglesworth said. "We had been looking forward to opening our final science studio sometime late summer, but when we heard about the eclipse we said that's our go-date, let's make it happen."

The solar eclipse viewing event will be held on the front lawn of the museum at 1 p.m. Glasses that look like old-fashioned 3-D glasses will be available for people to look safetly at the bright disc. Music, food trucks and volunteers to explain what is being seen will be on hand.

Cost of the new dome, telescope restoration and "Buffalo in Space" is $2.5 million. The city and county gave nearly half, with the City of Buffalo providing $525,000 and Erie County $500,000.

The museum's next big project is to restore the building's front steps, although there is no timetable yet on when that work will start.

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