The Dearborn Telescope with its 18.5-inch refracting lens may
date back to the Civil War, but every Friday night, families can
visit the observatory on Northwestern University's campus to watch
a computer guide the ancient mechanism as it sweeps this way and
that to cover the sky.
Dearborn Observatory offers two viewings every Friday night.
September hours are 9-10 p.m. and 10-11 p.m. Reservations are
required for the first hour, which limits the number to 20 and
allows for better traffic control, says Carrie Middleton, program
assistant at Northwestern's Center for Interdisciplinary
Exploration and Research in Astrophysics. Each visitor gets three
to five minutes looking through the telescope, and four to five
celestial objects are viewed during the hour.
The second hour is open to walk-ins, which means you might have
to compete for viewing time with more skywatchers, Middleton
Beginning the first Friday in October, however, the sessions are
bumped up an hour (8-9 p.m. and 9-10 p.m.), which is more appealing
to parents, Middleton says.
Obviously weather is a factor, but Middleton points out that
even when cloud cover prevents viewing, kids still get excited just
seeing the telescope. Smaller children may not be able to see
anything through the scope, Middleton says, because "they may not
be able to relax their eye enough. But the telescope still leaves
an impression. Kids will want to come back. It's never too early to
instill a passion for this kind of thing."
There's a ramp for access into the building, but the dome is
only accessible by climbing three dozen stairs. There is no
Getting to the observatory, however, is pretty easy. It's
located behind Garrett Theological Seminary on Sheridan Road, and
the large parking lot directly south of Garrett is free to the
public after 4 p.m. That lot is located between the traffic lights
at Foster to the south and Noyes to the north.
It's worth the trip, Middleton says. "Kids need to be exposed to
more science, even in this age of technology. This is a chance to
see the real deal. The sooner kids are exposed to science, the
better off we'll be as a society."
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