A non-profit group devoted to science education has announced their plan to move one of the largest refracting telescopes in America to Northwest Arkansas. They are currently fundraising to cover the moving costs for the 100-plus year old telescope, which they hope to make the centerpiece of a science and technology center.

According to release on their website, Supporting STEM and Space Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Northwest Arkansas, reached an agreement with Swarthmore College near Philadelphia to accept donation of the school’s massive 24-inch-wide, 36-foot-long telescope, which stands on a 50,000 pound cast iron cradle. It is the sixth largest refracting telescope in the U.S.

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Originally built in 1911, the telescope currently resides in Sproul Observatory at Swarthmore. The observatory, named after William Cameron Sproul, who originally donated the telescope, is being re-purposed, so the college put out a request for proposals from groups who would use the donated instrument to promote science. Supporting STEM and Space Inc., got the nod via email on April 19.

One of the oldest telescope designs, refracting telescopes feature a large lens at the front of the telescope, which focuses light into a smaller lens into which an observer looks.


Supporting STEM and Space Inc. was started in 2014, and is chaired by Dr. Katherine Auld, a science professor at Northwest Arkansas Community College. In recent years the group has sponsored a successful “Library Telescope” project, which makes telescopes available for check out from local public libraries.

Swarthmore is paying to have the telescope disassembled and packed into crates for shipping. The non-profit has started a gofundme.com page to raise the estimated $20,000 cost of moving the telescope to Arkansas and storing it until it can be restored. The group plans to make upgrades so that it can work with modern computer systems, with the restored telescope serving as a centerpiece of a science and technology center near I-49, though that is several years and much fundraising into the future.