Lifestyle

Battle Point Astronomical Association breaks ground on sundial sculpture

With the weekend sun blazing, local astronomers bucked the stars to concentrate on our sun.

Members and supporters of the Battle Point Astronomical Association (BPAA) gathered for the groundbreaking of the Battle Point Sundial Project on Saturday.

"This has been our focus for the last couple years," said BIAA board member Russ Heglund. "We always wanted to have (a sundial) on the grounds for educational purposes and to have something beautiful that records time."

Members monitored the sundial as a slow-moving shadow crossed its face, allowing enthusiasts to calibrate the instrument.

The large, bow-string sundial is made of two bisecting crescents that have a diameter and overall height of roughly 10 feet. The sculpture will be tilted to parallel the Earth's axis, and will face southward towards the observatory.

Though the sundial is currently wooden, and temporary, it is much like the eventual structure that will replace it.

"This is a full scale model," said Bill Baran-Mickle. "And we're doing this because we wanted to start the enthusiasm for the project."

Baran-Mickle, a metal smith and long-time island resident, has been commissioned to design the sundial. The end product will be made of steel, concrete and a large stone base, he said.

BPAA is hoping the sundial will turn into a gathering place and will also enhance the experience at Battle Point.

"One thing that was exciting for me about this project is that I walk around this park almost daily," Baran-Mickle said. "I'm a neighbor and the idea that I could walk around and see this, and the kids and families could enjoy this as a piece of sculpture, is very exciting."

BPAA is hoping it will jump-start its fundraising efforts as well.

The sundial is the first tangible step BPAA has taken on a large capital project to revamp the Edwin E. Ritchie Observatory at Battle Point.

"We've wanted to improve the observatory for a while," Heglund said. "We'd like to expand our planetarium, because we're getting overflow crowds right now."

BPAA, which hosts stargazing parties and guest speakers, has been stifled by the restrictions of their facility. The small World War II era Helix military building houses a 27-inch diameter telescope, but it also leaks, has steep stairs that hinder access and has no indoor restroom.

For now, BPAA will concentrate on finishing the sundial and planning for an eventual plaza around the centerpiece that could feature interpretive plaques.

Approval for the sundial project came from the BPAA board in February with the goal of a fall completion date. However, Heglund admits that time line depends on their capital.

"We're raising money right now," he said. "When the money comes together we'll see if everything goes according to plan."

The Battle Point Astronomical Association is raising funds to renovate and expand the Ritchie Observatory, including completing work on the Battle Point sundial. Find more information about the project at http://www.bpastro.org or email vicepresident@bpastro.org.

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