Anyone can buy naming rights to a star, but Gary and Linda Dower are hoping to pick up their very own observatory. The couple, who own the deluxe Mirbeau Inn & Spa in New York's Finger Lakes region, have offered $10 million to the University of Chicago for the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wis. – one of the nation's most historically important, if no longer scientifically advanced, observatories.

The observatory, on the shores of Geneva Lake, was named for Charles Tyson Yerkes, the Chicago streetcar baron whose money built the facility in the late 1890s under the guidance of George Ellery Hale. The gem of the site: a 40-inch refracting telescope, the largest of its kind in the world, and one of five major research telescopes in the facility. It was at Yerkes that astronomer William Morgan discovered the Milky Way's spiral arms. Morgan also laid keystones of future...

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