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NJ Eagle Scout builds space observatory for star gazing at school

HOPATCONG, N.J. — Justin McCarthy, 18, won a telescope at an astronomy conference in Vermont a few years ago, and that catapulted him toward this project: he has now built an observatory to house it in.

The structure is roughly the size and shape of a garden shed, except it has been retrofitted with a retractable roof. McCarthy built the entire thing from the ground up, with guidance from a local contractor and help from teachers, friends and other scouts.

From the planning stages to the final touches, the observatory took him two years to build.

“Now we have a resource for students and hopefully the public too,” McCarthy sid.

He’s a senior at Hopatcong High School and he completed the project in order to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. The observatory now sits in the school courtyard and teachers are currently working to write it into their spring curriculum.

“We couldn’t be more proud of what Justin has done,” said Hopatcong Principal Lewis Benfatti.

McCarthy worked on the observatory during lunch periods, shop class, before and after school, as well as in the summer months while simultaneously holding a job. He plans to study at Stevens Institute of Technology next year. Even though astronomy is something he is passionate about, he said he plans to keep his feet on the ground.

“I do like building,” McCarthy said. “That’s why I think I want to be a civil engineer."