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Karmadillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-27-04 12:03 AM
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Yerkes (Observatory) On the Block

December 15, 2004 | Yerkes Observatory may soon have a new owner. The University of Chicago has considered selling the observatory's telescopes, buildings, and about 80 acres of lakefront property in southeastern Wisconsin "for decades," says director Kyle M. Cudworth, the only astronomer still working full time at the former research powerhouse. Now a sale seems imminent, and it remains unclear what the future holds for the observatory's century-old refractor (the world's largest), its Romanesque main building, and its two dozen employees.

Cudworth first learned in July that the university had received and was close to accepting an unsolicited offer for Yerkes from a developer hoping to build houses on the observatory's landscaped grounds. (Two sources peg the sale price at about $10 million.) Shortly thereafter, rumors of a likely sale prompted area resident Larry Larkin and a handful of neighbors to make a counteroffer. Larkin and his colleagues hope to acquire the property for Aurora University, whose George Williams campus abuts Yerkes on three sides. Both offers remain in effect, and several sources say that the University of Chicago may choose between them by late January.

Yerkes Observatory's main building houses the 40-inch refractor (in the 90-foot-diameter dome on the left side of this December 1st photo) and 41-inch and 24-inch 24-inch reflectors (in the central and right-hand domes, respectively). The century-old observatory has had to contend with frequent clouds and a near-sea-level elevation while competing facilities have arisen on mountaintops in California, Arizona, and elsewhere. Courtesy Heather Cudworth.

If the University of Chicago accepts the overtures being made by Larkin and his fellow would-be buyers, says Cudworth, a consortium of institutions would probably operate the observatory as a center for astronomy education and outreach. Downtown Chicago's Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, a likely participant, wants to expand its highly ranked collection of astronomical artifacts while conducting more research on science and education, says Adler's vice president for research, Lucy Fortson, and "Yerkes fits smack dab in the middle of all that." However, "we have to come up with a business before we accept any role in operating" the facility, she cautions. "We can't afford to do something that's going to be a resource drain."


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BrklynLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-27-04 12:14 AM
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1. Sure hope Aurora U wins the bidding.....It would be a shame to have
home developers get the property.
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BlueJazz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-27-04 12:19 AM
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2. Being that Yerkes is such an old ......
...(can I say)...American Tradition and extremely rich in heritage, can't it be place on the national historical list??
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