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A mobile astronomical observatory with a giant, hand-made telescope and meteorite samples for Burning Man 2015 and beyond.
A mobile astronomical observatory with a giant, hand-made telescope and meteorite samples for Burning Man 2015 and beyond.
A mobile astronomical observatory with a giant, hand-made telescope and meteorite samples for Burning Man 2015 and beyond.
332 backers pledged $17,716 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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Black Rock Observatory 2015

$17,716

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We're bringing an astronomical observatory  with a giant hand-made telescope to Burning Man 2015: Carnival of Mirrors. 

Opening night, 2014. Photo by Kevin Bond
Opening night, 2014. Photo by Kevin Bond

 Stretch Goal: $20,000 - WE CAN DO IT!

The more funds we can raise, the more FUN we can bring. We want to bring a solar telescope that will show you prominences and flares on the Sun to extend our program into day. We borrowed H-alpha telescopes last year and we can't this year, but we still want to bring that amazing view of the nearest star home with us.These cost about $2,500 and unfortunately, this is something we can not build. 

The Sun in H-alpha light.
The Sun in H-alpha light.

More resources means more meteorites for kids! With your help, we can push past our initial goal of giving 100 meteorites to kids. Each sample costs approximately $5, but if we can buy more, the cost goes down. Chip in a little to make a connect a kid to space for a lifetime. 

We want to give away more meteorites to kids who visit the Observatory!
We want to give away more meteorites to kids who visit the Observatory!

We want to show you sunlight like you've never seen it! We want to stretch the light of the Sun into a spectrum of light to view its absorption lines that reveal the chemistry of the Sun. Did you know you can determine the chemical structure of a thing by simply analyzing it's light? We want to do this on playa with a very special instrument designed to spread the light of the Sun into a stunningly beautiful display of color and chemistry. The spectroscope we'd like to acquire costs $1,500.

STRETCH GOAL $20,000

THANK YOU! We're really excited we get to do this all over again. We can't wait to see you on playa under the stars. Share this campaign with you friends so we can go that extra mile and reveal the mysteries of the blazing Sun on playa this year. LET'S DO THIS!

Last year, with the help of Kickstarter and the Burning Man community, we built a mobile astronomical observatory designed by architect Gregg Fleishman, complete with a giant telescope, science activities and meteorites. 

We began our journey at Burning Man 2014: Carvansary and continued on to 2 regional burns, Kickstarter Film Festival, Lucidity, IgNight and even to Joshua Tree National Park to show John Adams Middle School students the Moon. This year, we're really excited to be bringing Black Rock Observatory back home to Burning Man in 2015: Carnival of Mirrors. 

With your help, we can take Black Rock Observatory back home and beyond....

Burning Man 2014: Caravansary
Burning Man 2014: Caravansary

There will be a lot of mirrors at Burning Man this year, but our very special mirror will show you wonders that are light years away in perfect focus from the comfort of our Macro Dome. Our giant telescope was built for Burning Man and has already blown thousands of minds. We've shown visitors lava channels on the Moon, the Orion Nebula, the rings and moons of Saturn, distant star-birth regions, galaxies with a trillion stars and supernova remnants. 

Our telescope's precision, hand-crafted, parabolic mirror cradles light to allow you to see through space and time. It has a silicon dioxide coating and will transmit millions of travel-wary photons into your pupils every minute. 

Our hand-made 20" f4.5 Dobsonian telescope with BRC city streets as the altitude bearing
Our hand-made 20" f4.5 Dobsonian telescope with BRC city streets as the altitude bearing

Photons, or particles of light, have been travelling at 186,000 miles per second for thousands of years  through the vacuum of space to meet you at the Observatory in deep playa, are you going to be there to meet them? 

Photos of heavenly objects are lovely, but nothing compares to the immediacy of staring down the abyss and seeing across those great distances at those dynamic and powerful wonders and having a personal experience with physics and gravity. You can be the universe knowing itself. 

 At Black Rock Observatory, you can look into a mirror and see yourself (by that, we mean the universe).

We were lucky enough to have a successful Kickstarter campaign last year that enabled our debut at Burning Man 2014, but we're coming back to Black Rock City in 2015! It's a huge honor that Burning Man has given us an Honorarium Grant this year, but we still need your help or we won't be able to bring it back. 

 Here's what the press said about us last year:

Rather than build an observatory for research and measurement, we chose to build one for the public as art and a celebration of science. As modern astronomy moves ahead, the telescope is seldom used visually. Cameras and spectrographs have separated us from seeing the universe with our own eyes. We show the public the joy, immediacy and beauty of our solar system and universe with telescopes.

The Macro Dome housing our telescope on playa
The Macro Dome housing our telescope on playa

The observatory consists of two 21 foot domes built with interlocking CNC-cut plywood, 2 steel domes and 2 canvas domes inhabited by instruments for viewing and sensing the universe. The Macro Dome with giant telescope to search the universe at large and The Micro Dome with lectures, art and activities focusing on the small universe. Balls viewing spheres from orbs on a globe. The sphere is the universe's answer to the form problem. Orbs above; orbs below. Echoes of the outer planets, the domes lie in a remote space requiring skills, effort and patience to reach. Eyeballs and telescopes fondle the planets overhead while 'zards, 'nauts and 'bots conduct experiments below.

Once we get on playa, we're all business. It's serious work. The crew with the 1:6 scale model.
Once we get on playa, we're all business. It's serious work. The crew with the 1:6 scale model.

At Burning Man 2015, on the outer playa, curious Burners will approach spherical structures with a strange but familiar form. Two globular domes designed by architect Gregg Fleishman will beckon like plywood planets of Finland Birch, two more angular metal domes reflect city lights. They’ll discover a telescope 8 feet tall where they can view planets, distant nebula and galaxies. Participants will rotate the dome manually and work together for an unobstructed view. At night, they’ll be invited from miles away by a circle of red light and a beacon inspired by an Interstellar Emissary. Participants can hear lectures on various topics from geometry to astrobiology and physics. 

The line for the telescope in 2014. Photo by Michael Risch
The line for the telescope in 2014. Photo by Michael Risch

Last year, we were blown away and truly honored by the amount of visitors we had in deep playa (it was far!), but we were unprepared and the lines got up to 2 hours long. Our back up telescopes lost important alignment hardware when screws vibrated out on the way in on gate road. People were very gracious about waiting but we need to shorten the lines this year!

Kidsville Night at B.R.O.
Kidsville Night at B.R.O.

Kids are a big priority at Black Rock Observatory. One of our most memorable nights last year was Kidsville Night. We met about 3 or 4 dozen familes in Kidsville, loaded on to the Monaco (giant ship mutant vehicle) and headed out the Observatory for some amazing family stargazing on the playa. After showing them Saturn's rings and moons and exhibiting our large 8 pound meteorite, we gave over three dozen excited kids small meteorites of their very own. It completely blew their mind. We still get emails and letters describing children who show off their meteorite to everyone who visits their home. 

 *Kids always go to the front of the line at Black Rock Observatory. If you don't like it, you go to the back of the line. Bring them by after Sunset at Burning Man 2015 for views of Saturn and the Moon. 

Our meteorite. We like to call it "the Rock." It's 4.5 billion years old!
Our meteorite. We like to call it "the Rock." It's 4.5 billion years old!

Our meteorites make people go bonkers. There's nothing like feeling the weight of more than 8 pounds of space rock that made a 500-million-mile journey to meet you. They say you get a wish when you see a shooting star. How many do you get if you hold one? OK, so shooting stars are really meteors and they become meteorites when they hit the ground, they're not stars at all. But, you knew that already. 

Our 3630g nickel-iron meteorite from Camp Del Cielo
Our 3630g nickel-iron meteorite from Camp Del Cielo

Come get your hands on our meteorite from Campo Del Cielo that fell to Earth in Argentina about about 6,000 years ago or our sliced meteorite from Muonionalusta, Sweden, a fine Octahedrite that spent about 850,000 years in a glacier before it melted out into the terminal moraine. 

Our Muonionalusta nickel-iron meteorite
Our Muonionalusta nickel-iron meteorite

Both of our meteorites are 4.5 billion years old, formed at the beginning of our Solar System somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter in the Asteroid Belt. They've traveled half a billion miles to Earth. You can get your hands on them by visiting us in deep playa. 

This year we're adding some great things:

  • Telescope - another big telescope to view alternate targets and keep lines short. 
  • Perimeter - a lit and flagged safety perimeter to lead you to the Observatory from Black Rock City
  • Details - Signage, lighting, sound for lectures, beacons, art
  • Interstellar Emissary - a beacon lighting the way to B.R.O. and a tribute to the Voyager spacecraft's Golden Record
  • Meteorites - more meteorites for the kids, better presentation for our current samples and a pallasite (meteorite with gemstones from space)
  • Repairs - the domes have seen many miles and our telescope actually caught fire at the last festival when someone uncovered it at the wrong time
  • Tools - we've been operating on rented or borrowed tools for over a year and we need ladders, drivers, hardware, hard hats and more hard stuff to build this thing.
Interstellar Emissary at Further Future and Yuri's Night
Interstellar Emissary at Further Future and Yuri's Night
Our new sign is almost ready! by Kevin Bond
Our new sign is almost ready! by Kevin Bond

Who are we and can you trust us?!

Known in the Burning Man community for the Temple of Whollyness, Otic Oasis and the Pistil and for his furniture and unique architecture in the world at large, Gregg Fleishman is a master of geometry and veteran burner. His designs have traveled the world in part because of their aesthetic, but also because they are easy to assemble, they pack flat and they rarely use metal of any kind. Gregg has been working with slotted plywood construction for 45 years and has even built cars made mostly of wood. His sustainable designs can carry us into a new age. 

Gregg wrote the Kama Sutra for Birch Trees and single-handedly launched what amounts to the Plywood Space Program. You can immediately recognize his work when you see it and he's always willing to discuss it with you and share what he knows. 

TinMan is probably best known for TinSpider, his ominous 12 legged, metal walking machine with a stellated dome for a head (pictured above). We need to help him get this thing to the playa! His designs are based on the same geometry as Gregg's wooden domes having the same number of facets in spherical form, but each face with a 4 sided pyramid in the place of squares. If you look closely at his work you'll notice that each pod is also made of 18 squares and 8 triangles in its spherical form. TinMan is a veteran Burner with the skills and work ethic to build a skyscraper out there if you let him. His work is inspiring and immediately puts you in a future mindset where more is possible than you imagined. 

We'll be building Tin Man's Observatory Tower (from last year's installation) so that interlopers can reflect back at their journey and observe the city as a whole, but we're also building a Small Rhombicuboctahedron in it's spherical form, that we'll be lighting from the inside to serve as another beacon and place to escape the desert wind.  We're going to help TinMan bring his Observatory structures and the TinSpider to the playa this year and this stuff isn't light. It's going to take a 26' box truck, Tin Man's flatbed and another flatbed truck to bring Black Rock Observatory the 500 miles from Los Angeles to Black Rock City. 

It takes a lot of truck to move this installation to the desert and we really, really need your help to get it all there. 

The Desert Wizards of Mars are a collective of artists, scientists, engineers, makers and doers based in Los Angeles with members in Nevada, Arizona, New York, Germany and all over the universe. We've built C.O.R.E. projects, effigies for regional burns, the Human Spirit, the Mars Rover Art Car, Interstellar Emissary among many more. We're a bunch of space-geek veteran burner types and we've been to outer space many times before, the playa is no sweat! 

 Last year, we gathered at dawn to celebrate the most important star. A cinematic masterpiece score to the Sunrise accompanies graceful fire dancers, a flurry of activity and skydiving eels returning to Earth, made a morning once witnessed and never forgotten. Dawn of the Burning Sun has a different vibe than many of the sound sources raging after dawn. This is a place and a state of mind where you can start your day with intent in alignment with the Solar System or you can end your night with piece and serenity among friends with sunrise yoga before snoozing. 

We owe everything to the Sun. Join us as we pay homage to the day together and to the source of it all with great music and fine company. Celebrate our fantastic community and salute that great sphere of nuclear fusion on Friday morning at Sunrise.

It's been a great year!

Trash fence? Exodus? What's all that crazy nonsense? We do this all year round! OK, OK, so we need a rest from time to time, but we do share space with people long after the dust has settled and you've had a few nights of rest in your own bed. We love Black Rock City and it will always be our home, but our mission is to take science where it isn't and show as many people as possible the view through a large telescope. So, we do this wherever they let us. 

 Two weeks after Burning Man ended last year, we headed to Griffith Park for Kickstarter's first film festival in Los Angeles. We were there to show the community what's possible with crowd-funding. 

 We were welcomed with open arms at the San Diego regional burn in October. We built the telescope just a few miles down the hill from historic Palomar Observatory on a beautiful hilltop overlooking the festival and observed distant nebula under very dark skies. 

 We were invited to Joshua Tree by John Adams Middle School, a science magnet school, for their annual science camp-out event, where we showed the students mountains, craters and volcanic domes on the Moon. The Rangers have asked us to return for their Night Sky Festival

 Bringing the domes to our local regional event was an honor and indeed outstanding. The skies were beautiful and we viewed many amazing targets. Many voices were lost and we opened a coconut with our 4.5 billion year old meteorite late into the night.

 We felt very welcome at this festival near Santa Barbara, Ca. On Sunday morning, a curious participant uncovered the telescope; when the sun hit the mirror, our telescope caught fire! Thanks to quick reactions, damages were minimal. Much fun was had by all. 

Custom Astrolabe Star Map
Custom Astrolabe Star Map
$25 Reward - Black Rock Observatory Bandana in Heat Shield Black
$25 Reward - Black Rock Observatory Bandana in Heat Shield Black
$50 Reward- a Black Rock Observatory t-shirt in Bok Globule Black
$50 Reward- a Black Rock Observatory t-shirt in Bok Globule Black
$25 Reward - Black Rock Observatory Patch
$25 Reward - Black Rock Observatory Patch
  
$100 Reward - a Black Rock Observatory Pewter Pendant based on our Dome #2 (Macro Dome) in Mercury Regolith Pewter Finish (our Dome#1 pendant from 2014 pictured above)
$100 Reward - a Black Rock Observatory Pewter Pendant based on our Dome #2 (Macro Dome) in Mercury Regolith Pewter Finish (our Dome#1 pendant from 2014 pictured above)
$150 Reward - Black Rock Observatory Zipper Hoodie in Event Horizon Black
$150 Reward - Black Rock Observatory Zipper Hoodie in Event Horizon Black
$350 Reward - nickel-iron meteorite (quarter included)
$350 Reward - nickel-iron meteorite (quarter included)

 We know you don't donate just for the rewards, but we promise that we'll do our best to ship those rewards to you as soon as possible. We learned a lot about supply chain management and fulfillment last year, so we hope you'll trust us to deliver on our promises. 

If you care about space or just love the idea of an observatory at Burning Man, please donate what you can now. 

 PLEASE DONATE NOW!

Risks and challenges

Setting up an observatory in a remote and dusty environment is no easy endeavor, but with the quick setup of Gregg Fleishman's architecture, our team's experience in science outreach and the support of our community, we will be able to bring to the Black Rock Desert an experience that won't easily be forgotten.

Dust.
What are we going to do about the dust? Luckily the dust hasn't caused any problems that can't be dealt with. Dusty optics actually perform fairly well. The optics gather a certain amount of coating, but then stop gathering dust. To clean them on playa, a good jostling is usually enough. Off playa, the mirror can be properly cleaned. No damage to the optical coatings has been detected yet, but then the coatings are new.

Light Pollution.
Last year, we encountered far more light pollution that expected, it was especially bright year in deep playa. With proper timing and evasive maneuvers, we managed to dance around the spotlights and still provide a good show for those who waited in line.

Bad Weather.
Even though Hubble Telescope sits high above the atmosphere, most observatories, like ours, are subject to the whims of the weather. We've thought about this and that's why we have a robust activities program, a giant meteorite (weatherproof) and other exhibits that are worth checking out even if you can't see the stars. The architecture of the Observatory is quite nice and can actually be a great shelter in case of bad weather, so come out and see us, rain or shine, day or night.

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    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    Down For the Cause. GIVE ANY AMOUNT YOU'RE COMFORTABLE WITH, but give what you can. You don't need material things, you're a space monkey ready to be shot into space for the greater good. Where else can you give to a good cause and be a patron of both art and science for $1? Give what you can and get access to special Supporter Photo Gallery with exclusive behind the scenes photos and videos.

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    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    Black Rock Observatory Logo Bandana (great for a dust mask or space piracy). You can even use it to find your way back to camp. Seriously though, just get a 3M n9211 for your dust mask.

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    Your choice of Black Rock Observatory Patch (see graphic below). Sew it on to your fanny pack and get your butt kicked on the way to school or be the cool hero-geek hanging with the cool kids at Burning Man. Comes with secret deep-space knowledge. Get access to an exclusive Kickstarter Supporter Photo Gallery with behind the scenes photos and videos.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    A quality T-shirt with the Black Rock Observatory Logo, see photo. Because DPW looks cool in those black shirts and why should they have all the fun? Blacker than the blackest void of deep dark space. Get access to an exclusive Kickstarter Supporter Photo Gallery with behind the scenes photos and videos.

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    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    Customized Digital Astrolabe Star Map for the dates of Burning Man or your birthday custom crafted by a Black Rock Observatory Crew Member and astrophysicist. See your special day artistically displayed with elements of the cosmos. See photo.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Black Rock Observatory Pewter Pendant based on an orthogonal view of our dome, Gregg Fleishman's interpretation of a Small Rhombicuboctahedron. A perfect way to keep this project close to the heart. Add $25 for international shipping. Get access to an exclusive Kickstarter Supporter Photo Gallery with behind the scenes photos and videos.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Very High Quality Zipper Hoodie with the Black Rock Observatory logo made from the fabric of space-time by aliens. For those cold nights dancing under the stars on the playa. Get access to an exclusive Kickstarter Supporter Photo Gallery with behind the scenes photos and videos. Add $25 for international shipping.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    PACKAGE DEAL
    Black Rock Observatory logo Hoodie + Pendant+ Tshirt + Bandana + Patch. As if you don't already look geeky enough. Fly your nerd flag high. Real high. Get access to an exclusive Kickstarter Supporter Photo Gallery with behind the scenes photos and videos. Add $25 for international shipping.

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    Pledge $350 or more About $350

    Real Nickel-Iron Meteorite - 4.5 Billion Years Old! Ancient Metal Space Crystals fallen to Earth, people! Get one. At least 50 grams of octahedrite with characteristic Widmanstatten patterns produced by cooling metal in zero gravity over millions of years. Awesome. Holy Geologic time, Batman. Get access to an exclusive Kickstarter Supporter Photo Gallery with behind the scenes photos and videos. Add $25 for international shipping.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Meteorite from Mars. Are you kidding me? Do they mean a real...YES, a real piece of the planet Mars! Mars has been hit pretty damn hard by big meteors, hard enough to knock chunks off and those chunks flew all the way to Earth. Boom! Martian meteorites. The real deal. Own a piece of another planet. Invest in Interplanetary Real Estate now! Get access to an exclusive Kickstarter Supporter Photo Gallery with behind the scenes photos and videos. Add $25 for international shipping.

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    Start your own private sector space program. You're like the burner version of Richard Branson or the burner version of Elon M...oh wait, I guess that's just regular Elon Musk. Wow, you're awesome; you make a lot of cash AND you're a burner. You could change the world. If you'd like to make a large donation of $1,000 or more, please contact us to receive a tax-deduction.

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Funding period

- (30 days)