10
$\begingroup$

Are there any observatories with high powered telescopes that also allow public access?

Astronomy is a VERY expensive addiction, because no matter what telescope you get, you always want the next model up. If we can find an observatory that allows the public to see through their scope in America or Canada, we can make our vacation plans accordingly. Kids want to see Pluto. Scopes that powerful are "slightly" over our budget.

$\endgroup$
6
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ The Arizona/Coursera astronomy course asks you to request an observation on the MicroObservatory -- mo-www.cfa.harvard.edu/MicroObservatory -- We were very tickled to be able request observation time. I don't see pluto on the very easy to use list though: mo-www.cfa.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/OWN/Own.pl $\endgroup$ – Jack Schmidt Dec 13 '20 at 19:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sorry to burst your bubble, but Pluto will only look like a (faint) star even in the most powerful telescope! $\endgroup$ – Pierre Paquette Dec 14 '20 at 4:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Mount Wilson has 60" and 100" telescopes available for rent; but at $1-5k/night their target market is groups of experienced amateurs not the general public. mtwilson.edu/observe $\endgroup$ – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Dec 14 '20 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ @PierrePaquette, the Hubble Space Telescope was able to resolve Pluto as a disk several pixels across. $\endgroup$ – Mark Dec 14 '20 at 21:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Rent an Observatory for a Few Minutes $\endgroup$ – Keith McClary Dec 15 '20 at 2:06
6
$\begingroup$

The Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton in California has for years allowed the general public to view through their telescopes as part of their "Summer Series." Unfortunately, this is canceled this year due to COVID-19. According to the webpage, visitors can view through either the 36" Great Refractor and the 40" Nickel Reflector telescope. I attended this program when I was a kid and saw Saturn through one of these telescopes, a sight that I have never forgotten.

$\endgroup$
12
$\begingroup$

Amateur astronomers regularly broadcast their viewing sessions over the Internet on the LiveSkies network. Pluto is within the viewing capabilities of most of the equipment used to broadcast but it just looks like a dim star that can be seen to move over long periods of time.

https://www.liveskies.org/

Scroll down to the View As A Guest Link then click on a live broadcast. There are no schedules. People can broadcast from anywhere but the majority broadcast from North America. If it is dark and clear somewhere in North America someone may be on line.

Many amateur astronomy clubs have their own observatories that are open to the public on occasions. Google amateur astronomy clubs. There is probably a group near you.

Professional observatory time is a valuable commodity. Observatories with "high powered" equipment and skies dark enough for good viewing will have limited if any public access.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Which ones have "limited access"? $\endgroup$ – ProfRob Dec 13 '20 at 23:36
10
$\begingroup$

The Faulkes Telescope project offers educational access to 2-m telescopes in the Canary Islands and Hawaii.

Thanks to @PaulPrice for confirming my hazy recollection. I was observing at the Mt Stromlo 74 inch (1.9m) telescope in Canberra (long since incinerated in a bush fire) in the 1990s when there was a lunar eclipse. The observatory is at the top of a road that the public could access (Weston Creek Rd if memory serves). On that day (I think it was early in the morning) some folks drove up and asked if I could point the telescope at the moon. I did, and we watched it on a TV monitor and through an eyepiece situated at the Coude focus (with its walk-in spectrograph). Happy days.

You'll need a space telescope if you want to resolve Pluto as anything but a star, since its angular diameter is about 0.1 arcsec.

If you mean current, large professional telescopes (i.e. 2m+) that you can turn up and look through, the answer is no, not least because such telescopes don't have eyepieces.

$\endgroup$
8
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Sometimes it's not that easy even for astronomers to access premier observatories. When I observed on the GBT back in 2005-2006, we had to arrange it months in advance. They estimated operating costs at $2000 an hour. $\endgroup$ – Connor Garcia Dec 13 '20 at 21:59
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @ConnorGarcia cheap. VLT time is valued at around 2-3 times that. But it isn't for sale, it's approximately 8 times oversubscribed by competitive proposals. $\endgroup$ – ProfRob Dec 13 '20 at 23:34
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Some antique professional telescopes have eyepieces I believe. I once looked through a telescope at astro.uni-jena.de as part of a "long night of science" event. That telescope is housed in a purpose-built dome and must have been a research instrument in the past, and it has an eye piece that you can look through. I don't know anything about its specs, but it was aimed at Saturn and you could clearly see structure in the rings. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Dec 14 '20 at 5:22
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The Mount Stromlo 74-inch telescope had an eyepiece that was regularly used on open days (before the telescope was destroyed in bushfires). Due to the long focal length (eyepiece was mounted at Coudé) and bad seeing (daytime), you'd just see a white fuzzball "star" frantically moving all over. $\endgroup$ – Paul Price Dec 14 '20 at 16:06
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @PaulPrice ! I was going to add something about this but I wasn't sure I'd remembered correctly $\endgroup$ – ProfRob Dec 14 '20 at 18:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.