High school observatory to be open on First Night

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The astronomical observatory at Ocean City High School will join the list of Ocean City’s First Night activities. The astronomical observatory at Ocean City High School will join the list of Ocean City’s First Night activities.

OCEAN CITY — In an effort to help attract more family-friendly revelers to First Night, Ocean City’s non-alcoholic celebration of the New Year, the new astronomical observatory at Ocean City High School has been added to the list of attractions.

Star gazers will be offered an opportunity to join OCHS astronomy teacher Dr. John “Doc” Herrmann and science club members for telescopic observations and photography of Jupiter and its moon, the astronomical wonders of the winter sky and the waning gibbous moon.

“This is the best thing to happen to Ocean City in a long time,” said city publicist Mark Soifer, who serves on the board of directors for First Night.

First Night, celebrating its 21st year, is a popular event that attracts about 10,000 people, many of them second homeowners, to the shore in the middle of the winter.

On the heels of the destruction left behind by Hurricane Sandy, the addition of the observatory couldn’t come at a better time, Soifer said.

“When I first heard about this, I thought it was wonderful,” he said.

The observatory will be open 7:30-11 p.m.

The astronomical observatory is one of only a handful of high school facilities of its kind in the nation.

“It’s really exciting,” Soifer said.

“I thought we’d be able to attract an additional 500 people for First Night if we opened the observatory,” Herrmann said. “I’ll give up my New Year’s Eve to look at Jupiter with my wife.”

Herrmann said he would like to open the observatory for other events and holidays in the future.

“It’s a draw for our city,” he said. “I think it’s wonderful. The city has been so supportive of the observatory; they were instrumental in making the observatory happen. We could not have done this without the city’s support and we are happy to be able to make the observatory available.”

The astronomical observatory is a joint project supported by the Ocean City Educational Foundation, the Ocean City School District and the Ocean City Free Public Library. It sits on city-owned property next to the school, but belongs to the school district.

With school districts pushing a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum, Herrmann said the observatory has been a wonderful addition to the high school.

More than six years in the making, the education foundation and the library shared the approximate $50,000 cost of constructing the observatory. There was a ribbon cutting on Sept. 28 and students have been utilizing the facility in the meantime.

“I am so happy about this,” Soifer said. “Whenever you have something unique like this, it’s a big draw. It’s commendable what the school system has done, and it’s very generous of Dr. Herrmann to donate his time to come in on New Year’s Eve and open it for us.”

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