Blufftop Observatory to Boost Blacktip Island Economy

The Blacktip Island Observatory will feature a 3.7-meter optical/IR telescope, as well as a baseline array for submillimeter astronomy.

The Blacktip Island Observatory will feature a 3.7-meter optical/IR telescope, as well as a baseline array for submillimeter astronomy.

Tiperon University-Blacktip officials confirmed Thursday the university has resurrected plans for an observatory on Blacktip Island’s southern bluff. The facility will be funded by space agencies from several Caribbean nations.

The project, long stymied by opposition from developers and environmentalists, gained new life when that opposition unexpectedly faded.

“I don’t know what good some giant telescope’s going to do anyone,” said Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt, formerly the project’s most vocal opponent. “Another resort or two’s what Blacktip needs, but if the community’s dead set on this white elephant, I’ll go along with it for the common good.

“Plus, it’s nice to get under the skin of those pointy-head treehuggers.”

The observatory will be built on land formerly owned by the Skerritt family. Work on the facility, by Skerritt Construction, will begin next week.

The scientific community has coveted the Blacktip Island site for years.

“Blacktip’s sky quality is unique in the Caribbean,” TU-B astrophysicist chairperson Ursula Majors said. “With minimal development and the nearest island being 100 miles away, light pollution is non-existent. The only building at the south end is the Last Ballyhoo bar, and electricity’s out in that place more often than not.

“More significantly, the fumes from the island’s booby pond counteract the moist maritime air to produce some of the clearest skies in the Caribbean,” Majors said. “Usually you have to get above 12,000 feet in the desert to get air clarity like this.”

Current plans have the observatory conducting optical, infrared, and submillimeter astronomy, Majors said.

Many locals welcomed the news.

“It’ll be a shining star for our economy,” said island mayor Jack Cobia. “This shows the world Blacktip’s not just about drinking rum and gossiping about your friends. We’re contributing to the advancement of human knowledge now. And folks at the Ballyhoo’re eager for the uptick in business, too.”

Island environmentalists, however, still oppose the project.

“There’s rare and endangered species down there we’ve only just begun to study,” TU-B biodiversity professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “The Blacktip greasy palm is found only on the high bluff. And the redneck warblers have vital breeding grounds all around the Ballyhoo.”

Most residents, though are excited about the new facility.

“It’s brilliant there’ll be professional astronomers here,” divemaster Lee Helm said. “My girlfriend, she’s a Pisces with Virgo rising. Now I’ll be able to suss out exactly what makes her tick.

“I’ve an appointment to get my own star chart done, too, as soon as that radio telescope gets up and running.”

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