QUINN, S.D. (KELO) — In the little town of Quinn, South Dakota, a 3,000 pound telescope is collecting data about the universe.
Ron Dyvig fell in love with astronomy and the South Dakota skies when he was just a child.
“If you’ve had enough birthdays, you’ve had a lot of experiences and I am at the point where there is quite a list and in my case, it started when I was very young. Actually when I was in boy scouts, I was first introduced to astronomy and I made a connection that I’ve never lost,” Ron Dyvig, Co-owner/Observatory Dir., said.
Because of the open spaces and smaller cities, South Dakota has darker skies compared to other parts of the country.
“The reason for coming to Quinn was that we had an opportunity for a nice dark site here. The property was available from this old abandoned hospital and it just seemed like a good setting for me to embark on that endeavor,” Ron said.
The Badlands Observatory was built in 2000, but it was opened up to the public just a couple years ago. As you can see behind me, there are about a dozen telescopes.
Including the Newtonian telescope, that Dyvig built on his own.
“Through many years of making telescopes, grinding and polishing mirrors, later I became a school teacher. I taught math and science for a few years, I worked for a few years at the University of Arizona in their optical sciences and astronomy department and upon leaving there that kind of planted the real seed for perhaps building my own facility,” Ron said.
The Newtonian telescope weighs about 3,000 pounds. Dyvig says buying a commercial telescope like this would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Since he built it, it only cost the price of a used car.
After doing a number of projects for NASA and plenty of personal research, Dyvig and Teresa Hofer decided to get visitors involved.
“Doing the stargazing thing has been a life-long goal of ours actually, we’ve talked about it for years. Ever since we, Ron had the observatory first opened in the year 2000, we dreamt of having visitors to the observatory,” Teresa Hofer, Co-Owner/Photographer, said.
“What we are really amazed with is how people are just so fascinated with being able to go out on our deck here and see the Milky Way. Not even with a telescope but with the naked eye. And that is the opportunity that you have with dark skies. It only gets better looking at things through a telescope,” Ron said.
From the history gallery and viewing deck to the observatory, people have a chance to get a glimpse into the universe.
“Since we opened to the public in 2021, we’ve gotten absolutely fantastic reviews. We’ve had visitors from over 25 states and three countries and people that come here just really have a good time, we have a really personalized experience,” Teresa said.
It was important to Dyvig and Hofer that they got to share their love for astronomy with others. They urge everyone to make a reservation and stop by.
You can check prices and make reservations with the Badlands Observatory on their website. It’s also important to pay close attention to the weather, because skies need to be clear for viewing.