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Construction for International Dark Sky Discovery Center to begin in March

Fountain Hills, which became a Dark Sky Community in 2018, will be the site of the International Dark Sky Discovery Center.

The group will break ground on the project in March.

Plans include an observatory, a planetarium, a theater and the largest telescope in the Phoenix area.

Less than a century ago, Americans could look up at night and see the stars, but today, 80% of people on the planet cannot see the Milky Way.

That’s because city lights mute the darkness, which is necessary for better stargazing.

Joe Bill of the Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association says the facility will help people from all over the world learn more about how night skies benefit both humans and nocturnal animals.

"It really is designed to inspire, educate, stir imaginations, and also cultivate a greater appreciation of our dark skies, our planet and the universe," Bill said.

He said researchers will be able to access the center’s telescope remotely.

"We are so excited about getting to this point, that we can now say we’re committing to construction," Bill said.

Ron Dungan has lived in Arizona for more than 35 years. He has worked as a reporter, construction worker, copy editor, designer and freelance writer. He's a graduate of the University of Iowa, where he was a member of the undergraduate Writers’ Workshop, and has a master’s in history from Arizona State University.Dungan was an outdoors reporter and member of the storyteller team at the Arizona Republic, where he won several awards, and was a contributor on a border project that won the 2018 Pulitzer for explanatory reporting.When not working, Dungan enjoys books, gardening, hanging out with his German shorthaired pointer, backpacking and fly-fishing. He's a fan of the Arizona Cardinals and Iowa Hawkeyes.