Twitchell Observatory moved to Norway

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NORWAY — An observatory recently rolled through downtown, prompting a lot of double takes from motorists and pedestrians.

The Roger Twitchell Observatory was taken from its longtime home on Hooper Ledge on Paris Hill to its new site at Roberts Farm Preserve on Roberts Road in Norway. Bancroft Contracting of Paris moved the dome and base.

“Everyone looked puzzled,” Tom Norton of Bancroft Contracting in Paris said.

The observatory has hosted hundreds of astronomy enthusiasts for 20 years on Paris Hill and at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris for 10 years before that.

After workers unbolted the dome Oct. 25, a 14-ton boom truck lifted it onto one truck while the base was placed on another. At the new site they were lowered onto the new foundation and bolted together.

“It was a nice project to relocate history,” Norton said, adding that George Rice was the project manager.

The Roger Twitchell Observatory houses a 13-inch reflective telescope named after George Robey Howe, a Norway naturalist and scientist who died in 1950. The telescope, which is in storage, will be reassembled inside the dome. 

The observatory, a joint effort between the Oxford Hills School District and the Oxford Hills Community Education Exchange, had been on land donated by Jim and Karen Ney, who decided this year to do something different with their land.

“The district is grateful for the accommodations the Ney family has made in hosting the Twitchell Observatory for the past 20 plus years and equally pleased that the district was able to enhance its partnership with the Western Maine Land Trust to find a permanent home for the observatory,” School District Superintendent Rick Colpitts said.

He said the new location provides more convenient access and will enhance enhance the district’s mutual educational collaboration with the Roberts Farm Preserve, which includes outdoor classrooms and gardens.

Terry Robinson, an amateur astronomer who is leading a Stargazing Jumpstart class through the Adult Education program, said she believes the observatory won’t be operational until next spring.

Until then, the monthly Open Observatory Nights will still be held at various sites that are found and plowed throughout the winter.

“We have a group of volunteers with telescopes who help with those Open Observatory Nights, and we all want to continue through the winter if we can,” she said.

“We are exited about the new location and look forward to providing convenient access to the celestial world to wider audiences,” Colpitts said.

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Bancroft Contracting employees prepare to lower the dome of the Roger Twitchell Observatory onto its base at Roberts Farm Preserve on Roberts Road in Norway. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

The dome and base of the Roger Twitchell Observatory is put on its new foundation at Roberts Farm Preserve on Roberts Road in Norway. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

The Roger Twitchell Observatory is raised from its foundation on Hooper Ledge in Paris on Oct. 25. The structure was moved to Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway.  (Bancroft Contracting courtesy photo)

Tom Norton and Adam Herrick of Bancroft Contracting in Paris stand in front of the Roger Twitchell Observatory at Roberts Farm Preserve on Roberts Road in Norway. The company moved the structure from Hooper Ledge in Paris. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)

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