Love stargazing? Fountain Hills breaking ground on observatory in 2024

(Rendering courtesy of International Dark Sky Discovery Center)

By Robert Gundran

December 6, 2023

An observatory, planetarium, and the largest telescope in the Phoenix metropolitan area are all soon coming to Fountain Hills—just southwest of Saguaro and Palisades boulevards.

The nonprofit International Dark Sky Discovery Center is set to break ground on a facility in March 2024.


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“We are over the top happy to share that our board unanimously voted to begin construction of the International Dark Sky Discovery Center,” Joe Bill, the group’s president, said in a press release.

In addition to the observatory and planetarium, the center will have a theater with 150 seats and additional areas with hands-on learning experiences and educational displays.

The discovery center will be roughly 23,000 square feet. Swaback Architecture, a Scottsdale firm, designed the building, and McCarthy Builders, which has an office in Phoenix, will build it.

The nonprofit states on its website that the purpose of the center is “to create an international centerpiece for inspiring future scientists and people of all ages to understand how important dark skies are for the well-being of humans, plants, and animals.”


Why are dark skies important?

Light pollution makes it difficult to see the stars and planets in space. Dark Sky Communities are towns, cities, or municipalities recognized by the Tucson-based International Dark Sky Association for their dedication to lowering or eliminating light pollution.

Fountain Hills became a Dark Sky Community in 2018—the 17th in the world. Locals started the Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association in 2015 and lobbied City Council to pass a lighting ordinance in 2016 that then allowed them to apply for the designation.

“Dark skies are an increasingly important part of Arizona’s tourism offerings,” Lisa Urias, executive director of the Arizona Office of Tourism, said in a press release. “The Discovery Center admirably represents our state’s dedication to astronomical research and education.”


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  • Robert Gundran

    Robert Gundran grew up in the Southwest, spending equal time in the Valley and Southern California throughout his life. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in 2018 and wrote for The Arizona Republic and The Orange County Register.



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