June 7, 2006

Sale to preserve Yerkes observatory in Wisconsin

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The 109-year-old Yerkes Observatory,
where astronomers discovered the Milky Way galaxy's spiral
shape and made other advances, will become an anchor for a spa
and luxury homes, the University of Chicago, its owner,
announced on Wednesday.

Thirty of the 80 acres along Lake Geneva in Wisconsin that
surround the ornate, stone observatory housing what was once
the world's largest telescope will remain undeveloped.

Private developer Mirbeau Cos. agreed to pay the university
$8 million and a share of room and property taxes for rights to
build a 100-room spa and 72 luxury homes.

While scientific advances and light pollution reduced the
observatory's usefulness in recent decades, some of astronomy's
leading lights once worked there.

Edwin Hubble, who would go on to find evidence of the Big
Bang theory, studied at Yerkes, as did Nobel laureate
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who made discoveries about the
evolution of stars. Beginning work at Yerkes in the 1930s,
William Morgan would deduce the spiral shape of the Milky Way.