Observatory History

In April 1996, the Southern Maryland Astronomical Society (SMAS) entered into a Partnership Agreement with the Charles County Board of Education (CCBOE). Part of that agreement declared that SMAS would build an observatory at the Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Education Center (NCEEC), a facility of the Charles County School District. During that time, the second SMAS president, Keith Plumadore, discovered that an astronomical observatory dome at the deactivated Nike missile tracking site near Waldorf, Maryland was destined for demolition.

In September 1996, the SMAS/Charles County Board of Education(CCBOE) Partnership secured the donation of the dome from the Navy, with the agreement that it was the responsibility of SMAS to move the dome from the Nike site to NCEEC. Many lively discussions followed, with members trying to devise a plan to move the dome. Two of the more creative plans included air lifting it via helicopter and turning it upside down, then paddling it down the river. Finally, another SMAS member, Dave Garland, created and helped implement a plan to move the dome. In May 1998, he and several club members placed a large steel cradle under the dome and using a chain saw cut the dome off the top of the old Nike site observatory building and using a crane lifted it onto a flatbed trailer and hauled it to NCEEC. Amazingly, the day the dome was removed from its original building was exactly 33 years to the day of the "birth date" stamp on the inside of the dome.

After securing all the permits required, construction began, under the third SMAS president, Mike Conte, in January 1999. The majority of the construction was completed by SMAS volunteers over a two year period. The Nanjemoy Creek Observatory (NCO) was dedicated on October 29, 2000. NCO is used by visiting students, teachers, members of the general public and SMAS members throughout the year.

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Last Updated: 2/10/16