Observing Martz

On Robbin Hill Road, at the second highest elevation in Chautauqua County, N.Y., sits a pair of domes. Inside the domes are two large telescopes – a 20-inch Cassegrain (reflecting) telescope and a 24-inch Newtonian Reflector.

The observatory, associated with the Marshall Martz Memorial Astronomical Association, operates as a nonprofit organization with the mission of informing, educating, and inspiring the general public about astronomy. Students, as well as regional residents, are invited to weekly observation nights, that usually take place on Wednesdays and, according to Martz board member Tom Traub, of Warren, are well-attended.

Traub, who hosted an observation of the Perseid meteor showers with Jen Moore at Chapman State Park on Saturday evening, said he has been interested in astronomy since he was nine years old. Traub is usually in the control room, where he controls the massive 24-inch telescope and uses it to take astral images for the observatory and organizations such as Penn State Behrend and NASA.

But it’s not just him. Members and astorimagers with access to the observatory’s interface are able to control the domes from anywhere in the world, said Traub. The control room, the Cassegrain telescope, and the new kitchen and remodeled office spaces at Martz are part of approximately $35 million worth of renovations in the past few years, according to Traub.

In fact, it was in 2013 that Dr. Ronald Kohl, a retired orthodontist and amateur astronomer in Lakewood, N.Y., transferred ownership of his own personal observatory, which was founded in 1990 in Lakewood, to the Martz Observatory in Frewsburg.

The Cassegrain telescope and dome, as well as all of the electrical components, were moved to Frewsburg in 2014 and ongoing renovations have upgraded the telescope to allow, among other things, cell phones to be docked to the telescope and photographs taken of deep space on mobile devices.

Originally conceived in 1954 by Dr. Marshall Martz of Jamestown, N.Y., the observatory obtained grants in 2013 from the Night Sky Network, a cooperative association of amateur astronomers created by the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., to further its outreach mission by making presentational models among other elements available to students and the public.

In July 2015, the observatory completed work on what is one of two indoor observatories nationally, according to Traub, with roll-away roofing.

It is an observation room that can accommodate six, according to Traub, that essentially converts from indoor to outdoor with the simple sliding aside of the room’s roof.

Plans for the future of the Martz Observatory include a planetarium and remodeled classroom areas.

For more information on the Martz/Kohl Observatory, find them on Facebook, call the observatory at (716) 569-3689, or visit the website at martzobservatory.org.