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Field Trips

Visiting the Observatory

SchoolgroupThe Cincinnati Observatory is one of the most unique astronomical institutions in the United States. It is a fully functioning 19th century observatory used daily by the public and amateur astronomers. The main telescopes are an 11” Merz and Mahler refractor made in 1843 and a 16” Alvan Clark refractor from 1904. The historic buildings are recognized as a National Historic Landmark and the grounds provide a serene, park-like setting while still being centrally located in the city of Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati Observatory Center welcomes you and your group to experience the wonders of the sky through our historic telescopes. Our staff and volunteers enjoy nothing more than sharing the views of the universe with others. Group visits are offered both during the day and in the evenings and include a tour of the oldest professional observatory in America and the workings of the main scopes and domes. Astronomy presentations of your choice and classroom activities are offered if weather does not permit viewing.

DCP02382Daytime Visits:

See the Sun safely through the oldest telescope in the country. Students will be able to see sunspots and solar flares using white light and hydrogen alpha filters.

Admission is $5/ person with a minimum of $100 per group. Teachers and aides are free.

Nighttime Visits:

See the Moon, stars, and planets through some massive telescopes and experience the “WOW” of astronomy.

Programs last from 60-75 minutes but you are welcome to pack a lunch for before or after a program and make use of the beautiful grounds.

Admission fees are $7/adults, $5/kids with a minimum of $100/group.
Teachers and aides are free.

A limited number of scholarships are available to help defray admission and bus costs. 

We also welcome specialize in scout programs both afterschool and in the evenings.  Ask about our scout programs. If you have further questions or would like to schedule a field trip, please call Dean Regas at 513-321-5186.

Preparing for your Visit

Due to the nature of working in darkness is as well as the function of the telescopes, there are safety concerns. All of the equipment that we use is fragile and expensive and some items are historic masterpieces, thus irreplaceable.

Please review the following rules with your group before your visit and help us maintain these rules during your viewing session. Thank you very much.

observatoryhistoric1. The Cincinnati Observatory Center is a national historic landmark. The buildings and grounds of the Center should be treated accordingly. We ask that there is no running or jumping in and around the buildings. Prepare your students to use Museum Voices when in the building. We expect you to provide enough chaperones to effectively supervise all your students.

2. We ask that all equipment, objects and artifacts are treated with care. If there are any questions as to the operation or examination of an item, please ask a volunteer for assistance.

3. For nighttime viewing in the dome, we will often have to dim or completely turn off the lights. While everyone's vision acclimates to the darkness, please refrain from any sudden moves. Proper vision will be achieved after a few minutes.

4. While viewing, please refrain from touching the telescope.

5. Please let us know if you cannot see anything in the telescope. We will be more than happy to readjust the telescope so that you will be able to see. Also if the object doesn't appear to be in focus, please let us know.

6. Only one person on the viewing platform at one time. While waiting for your turn please do not touch the viewing platform.

7. Please take your time viewing objects. With dimmer objects, it's better not to look directly at the object rather move your eye around the field of the eyepiece. Please feel free to ask the operator any questions. At the same time be conscientious that there are others who wish to look.

8. Be sure to dress for the weather. The Observatory dome is kept at the same temperature as the outside air. In the winter time it can be very cold.

When You Come

Below are some sample questions for your students to uncover during their visit to the Observatory. You can use this as a follow up to your visit (to see who was paying attention) or as sample question for them to ask while they are here.

  • Why is the Cincinnati Observatory a National Historic Landmark?
  • Who was the founder and first director of the Observatory?
  • Where was the first Observatory building built?
  • Who was it named after?
  • What is the name of the area where the telescopes currently reside?
  • How do the telescopes work?
  • How do we open and move the dome so that we can see the whole sky?
  • What are some great things to look at with a telescope this week?
  • Name three constellations you can see at this time of year?
  • What did you like best about your visit to the Observatory?

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