2021 - A Beautiful Year For Frosty Drew

As we ride through the last 24 hours of 2021, at Frosty Drew we are closing out another spectacular year! 2021 has been another rough ride for many and we empathize with the situations that many find themselves in. At Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center we made it a goal to persevere through tough times with smiles on our faces and positive attitudes. It’s during tough times that fantastic opportunities reveal themselves, like diamonds in the rough, and 2021 was certainly one of those years. Both at Frosty Drew and in astronomical science.

For starters, the big deal at Frosty Drew for 2021 was the replacement of our aging primary observatory telescope, a Meade LX200 16 inch Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope with a new, cutting edge PlaneWave CDK600 24 inch Corrected Dall-Kirkham telescope. This telescope is a monster in the observatory, and the views are just as vicious! Not only is the addition of this telescope on our list of awesomeness, but also the experience of installing the device, which required years of planning, and several weeks of modifications / upgrades. As we continue to adapt the new telescope to our operations and goals, the views just keep getting better. If you haven’t had a chance to observe through this new telescope, be sure to make plans in 2022 to stop in and be amazed!

Due to the addition of the new telescope, we took the opportunity to completely revamp the observatory facility. Many items in the observatory building needed repair or replacement. We figured, why not get these items done during the upgrade, when there is no telescope present to worry about. Doing work in the observatory building is daunting due to concerns about the telescope’s optics. Though having a month-long period without a telescope in the dome made for a fantastic opportunity to get this done, which included repainting all the walls to flat black, which will significantly reduce the amount of stray light bouncing off the walls. We replaced the old red light sconces with a red LED strip embedded into the wind shroud of the dome azimuth motor track, which illuminates the entire dome roof a subtle red, and has the ability to illuminate the dome in any color we choose. We removed the old brown locker, which had super sharp edges everywhere, and was responsible for repeatedly flaying our team members in the dark. The 40” LCD display panel is now mounted to the wall with an adjustable mounting arm for better presentation. All of the observatory displays are being updated to show recent work by the Frosty Drew Astronomy Team. The list of upgrades is too long to go into here, but there are still several upgrades taking place.

2021 also saw the addition of a new presentation station on the Frosty Drew campus that will be used regularly during our Stargazing Nights events during the warmer season. The new station is called Under the Willow, and is found behind the Science Center building. We have a huge willow tree that sits right on the shore of Little Nini pond, which abuts our campus. Under the willow we have several benches that were built years ago by local Eagle Scouts. Over the years these benches have fallen into disrepair, and the shoreline had become excessively overgrown. A big project goal of 2021 was to remove all the invasive overgrowth along the shoreline, around the willow, and around the benches. Then restore the benches, trim up the willow, and hang lantern hangers from the willow limbs. We introduced the Under the Willow station during our 2021 Spooky Views Halloween Stargazing event with great success. In 2022 we will offer two story times every Friday under the draping limbs of the willow. We will also host special Moon rise views over the pond from the new station.

It was decided in 2021 to change the name of the Science Center building, renaming it the Clarkson Collins Science Center, which is a namesake of one of our organization’s Charter Members, who was Frosty Drew’s childhood friend, college roommate, and overall best friend. Clark has done so many fantastic things for the Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center over the years. He has taken the helm as Chairman and CEO of the Frosty Drew Memorial Fund Board of Directors several times over his tenure at Frosty Drew, and always shows up on our team work days, and other organization building events. Clark frequently shares memories and anecdotes of his time with Edwin “Frosty” Drew, especially his memories of the witty things that Frosty used to do.

As we slide into 2022 the progress continues, and several projects are already underway. For one, we will be re-introducing the old Meade LX200 16 inch telescope that we removed from the dome, back into our weekly Stargazing Nights events. We have retrofitted the optical tube assembly, which is just the telescope part of the device, with a modern mounting mechanism to allow us to attach it to a portable mount. We have installed the mount tripod onto a base with wheels and can roll it out on public nights. This will begin the next stage of this telescope’s involvement at Frosty Drew, where it will continue to amaze our visitors with views of the cosmos.

We are also underway in upgrading the Sky Theatre presentation devices. In 2019 the old DLP projector died on us. We began plans to replace the device, then the pandemic hit, and the plans were pushed off in favor of more pressing issues. In the interim we have been borrowing a small, table-top DLP device from one of our team members. In 2022 we will be installing an 85” LED panel onto the projection wall of the Sky Theatre. A new display server will be built with the components necessary to drive the display. The type of imagery that we show in the Sky Theatre always took a hit with a projection device, and will significantly benefit from the addition of a display panel.

After years of talking, planning, idealizing, etc; we have finally begun replacing the concrete telescope pads in the Observatory Courtyard with telescope piers that will utilize custom adapter plates which will work with all of our telescope mounts. This project is already underway and will see completion in spring 2022. The outcome of this project will be the introduction of four replacement piers to the Courtyard concrete pads, the addition of a new telescope pier in our east Courtyard, and the addition of telescope concrete pads to the northwest lawn outside the Sky Theatre.

There are many more items on our 2022 list, and we will be adding new items to our project list as the year progresses. Though 2021 has been another tough year, at Frosty Drew, we have had another spectacular year and are diving into 2022 with intense optimism. So make plans to visit us in 2022 and become fast friends with the cosmos!

Scott MacNeill
Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
Dec 31, 2021
Published Under:
Scott MacNeill's Columns
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