LARAMIE, WYOMING - Professors from the Univ. of Wyoming Department of Physics and Astronomy have announced the acceptance of a Bill Gate's Foundation Grant for the purpose of building an observatory atop the Devil's Tower.
The Devil's Tower, located in northeast Wyoming, rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fouche River below and stands at an elevation of 5112 ft. Although sacred to several Northern Plains Tribes, the Univ. of Wyoming has a signed agreement with the tribal leaders to use the tower for the purposes of education, except during the month of June when they hold religious ceremonies at the site.
Dr. Terry Clymer, head of the Astronomy Dept. explained, "One reason the tribal leaders accepted our proposal was because we plan to build the observatory in the shape of a teepee, much like the American Heritage Center building on the Univ. of Wyoming Campus. The telescope will stick out an opening in the the top, where smoke would come out in a regular teepee."
When asked how the observatory will be built when there are no stairs or roads that lead up the sheer cliffs to the tower, Dr. Clymer said, "The University of Wyoming has an excellent engineering department. We are going to leave that part in their capable hands. One idea is to build a temporary scaffold along side the tower. Another is to transport materials and builders to the top using large army transport helicopters from the Wyoming National Guard. In any case, what a view!"
The Devil's Tower was used as one backdrop for Steven Spielberg's movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Sources say name choices for the new observatory include "Close Encounters Observatory", "The Bill Gates Microsoft Observatory" or "Cheyenne River Sioux Observatory" after one Native American tribe that regards the Devil's Tower as a sacred site.