Just off Utah Trail near the north entrance to Joshua Tree National Park in Twentynine Palms, CA, quietly sits the Sky's The Limit Observatory and Nature Center. This non-profit organization is comprised with a dedicated committee of local residents whose mission is to develop the site as a center for education and preservation in the fields of astronomy and environmental science. Although the center is now open to the public, phases of construction are still an ongoing process. Guests now have the opportunity to take a stroll along a nature trail that's filled with native plant species and be able to follow the movements of planets in our Solar System at a large outdoor Orrery. For those seeking a sanctuary to meditate or just be at one with nature, a Zen Meditation Garden now sits at the southern end of the site and is open to anyone to use. Future plans includes acquiring two large observatory domes for telescope observing/imaging, building a 200 seat outdoor amphitheater for presentations and Sky Tour programs, erecting classrooms and telescope making workshops and more. Because the success of the organization is dependent by grants and generous donations by the public, final completion of this project is not expected for quite a few years; however, as word continues to spread about this all grassroots/all volunteer campaign, Sky's The Limit Observatory and Nature Center will become one step closer to realizing its dream of completion.
I was initially contacted by volunteers, Ray Yeager and Paul Livio and was personally invited to visit and tour Sky's The Limit Observatory and Nature Center. This spring, I was finally able to make the journey to the desert. Upon meeting some of its committee members including Ann Congdon, Jerri Hagman, Ken Drummond, James Boyd and a few other members, I immediately felt there was something very special about this organization, its dedicated team of volunteers, the pristine desert location and their vision. One look at the starry night sky, I only imagined how spectacular the views would look through a large aperture SCT, which I knew was on their "Wish List." With Celestron looking to continue supporting and enhancing science, education and outdoor markets, while inspiring people with a sense of wonderment and knowledge, supporting Sky's The Limit seemed quite logical. And so, on May 21, 2011, Marketing Manager, Michelle Meskill and I journeyed to Sky's The Limit Observatory and Nature Center to present a CGE Pro 1400 during an Ice Cream Social and Presentation Ceremony in front of many committee members and supporters from around the Morongo Basin. Immediately following the ceremony, the CGE Pro 1400 underwent "First Light" to the delight of everyone in attendance. Saturn was the first showcase object on the night's observing list and did not disappoint. As the night went on, several other spectacular deep sky objects were viewed that included M3, M13, M51, M57, M81, M82, M92 and NGC 4565. Several other local astronomers brought along their telescopes to help share the views to all the guests. With clear and starry skies, what a great evening it turned out to be. The CGE Pro 1400 will soon be permanently housed inside one of the two observatory domes being planned for the site. We're positive this telescope will help bring distant worlds much closer to home, so everyone will be inspired by the views. Guests will have many opportunities to learn about all the programs and activities being offered - here on Earth and in the night sky - all in the name of education! It's not all just on paper; progress is already being made on the ground!
Michelle and I would like to thank the staff of Sky's The Limit Observatory and Nature Center for being such excellent hosts and for arranging all the informative tours and making sure our visit was as comfortable as could be. Celestron is proud to help support your wonderful organization, and we could easily see that when people get together with the same goals and passions, the possibilities are endless. The sky is truly the limit!