Inside the Doane Observatory
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I love science, space, and technology – so when I saw the “barn doors” of the Doane Observatory wide-open from the bike path, I was giddy. At that moment, I remembered seeing a tweet or two from the Adler Planetarium (@AdlerSkywatch) a few weeks back about daily solar viewing, so we pedaled on over, and lo and behold, the observatory doors were open with a sign welcoming visitors in.
Amy and I climbed the spiral staircase and entered the dome that houses the telescope – a beautiful piece of machinery I may add. The Doane is a classical Cassegrain reflector containing a 20-inch (0.5 m) diameter mirror, which gather over 5,000 times more light than an unaided human eye, allowing you to see celestial objects like the Moon, planets, stars, and galaxies that are trillions of miles away. Weighing in at 500-pounds, the hulking piece of equipment is held up by a bright yellow fork-style equatorial mount – the kind of stuff Sci-Fi dreams are made of.
We chatted with the volunteers and learned we would be viewing the sun through two smaller telescopes mounted to the top of the main unit. These had special solar filters that allowed us to stare directly into the sun. In one eyepiece we could see sunspots. Through the other, we could clearly see the prominences and filaments surrounding the sun – truly an awesome sight.
The Doane Observatory is open to the public, free of charge, from 11 am – 3 pm Saturday and Sunday – but make sure it’s relatively clear! The Doane is an optical telescope so if it’s a cloudy day you won’t be able to see the sun.
The feature image is a 3-frame panoramic stitch with a creative color edit for dramatic effect.