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Idahoans getting access to new views of outer space

Thursday starts a new era at Bruneau Dunes State Park – a brand new observatory will be carrying on the star gazing experience, along with a new telescope.

MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho — Idahoans can now see even more of the beauty of outer space. On Thursday, a new observatory was dedicated at the Bruneau Dunes State Park, which is near Mountain Home.

You might know Bruneau for its gigantic sand dunes. The state park manager, Bryce Bealba, said the park has the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America, standing at 470 feet.

The state park has also been home to an observatory for the past 25 years. Thursday starts a new era – a brand new observatory will be carrying on the star gazing experience, along with a new telescope.

With this new telescope, the park's manager said people will be able to see farther and clearer than ever before.

"The old telescope was really just for visual astronomy, and we got some really good views looking through it, but you couldn't do any kind of imaging with it," astronomer for Bruneau Dunes State Park Greg Harman said. "The new telescope, it's got several cameras attached. Got one wide-angle camera, which is going to be for deep sky, galaxies, nebula star cluster. Then, one for planetary, so looking at solar system objects, and you can do all that imaging."

While the telescope will certainly be giving access to stellar, interstellar views, there's even more to be excited about.

"The most exciting thing for me isn't necessarily the telescope. It's not the building or anything like that. It's the fact that we have yet one more thing to bring people outside to get them to enjoy the night sky and to show him just the value of having a preserved dark sky," Bealba said.

The sky may be dark, but the view can spark a new outlook.

"I see all different ages of kids coming down, and for the first time, seeing Saturn, or seeing Jupiter and seeing that there's moons around this little planet out there," Harman said. "They get a sense of just how big the universe is, it gives them that perspective."

Bealba added the Bruneau Dunes State Park will also be adding a planetarium feature into the new telescope.

"It's actually going to project images up onto the underside of the dome. It's absolutely incredible visually, and you can fly anywhere in the known universe," Bealba said.

Harman elaborated on the new telescope's impressive capabilities and the feeling that comes with it.

"There's something about actually seeing that light, actually looking through the telescope, it's much more personal experience," Harman said.

The new observatory is also ADA accessible. There's a new eyepiece that comes down below the shoulder, so you don't need to climb on a ladder to see through it anymore. The first show using the telescope is expected to be June 16. Then, programs will be offered Friday and Saturday nights.

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