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Fountain Hills to host eclipse watch party at new facility on April 8

A rare total solar eclipse will cast a swath of the world in darkness on Monday, April 8.

Even though Phoenix will only experience a maximum of about 64% of the eclipse, Fountain Hills will still be hosting a watch party at the ground-breaking ceremony for their new International Dark Sky Discovery Center.

The ceremony and watch party will be held at 13001 N. La Montana Drive.

Spectators are expected to gather around 10:30a .m, and presentations will begin shortly before 11 a.m. Following the ceremony, the eclipse watch party will begin.

The eclipse will reach its maximum darkness at about 11:20 a.m.

The International Dark Sky Discovery Center is set to include an observatory, a 65-seat planetarium, a 150-seat auditorium, and a large "Night Sky Experience" exhibit with interactive displays.

Currently, there is no research-grade observatory in the Phoenix area - the closest one is Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, where Pluto was first discovered in 1930, and one of the six total dark sky communities in Arizona.

The center is currently seeking donations and offering naming rights as it works its way to achieve a fundraising goal of $25 million.

Fountain Hills was only the 17th community in the world to be designated an International Dark Sky Community. Such communities are devoted to the preservation of dark night skies through the use of outdoor lighting ordinances, education, and citizen support.

There are four other dark sky communities in Arizona: Sedona, Big Park, Cottonwood, and Thunder Mountain Pootseev Nightsky.

Fountain Hills is also one of few dark sky communities to be located so close to a metropolitan area, as light pollution continues to encroach on communities and impact nocturnal animals, birds, and even human health.

In a world where 80% of people can no longer see the Milky Way from where they live, the International Dark Sky Discovery Center hopes to be a dark spot where people can do just that.

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Nate Engle was an intern at KJZZ in 2024.