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Campus Teaching Observatory


The Campus Teaching Observatory is a beehive of activity. On four nights each week it is used by elementary astronomy students totaling 800 per year. Smaller numbers of advanced students share the facilities, which now include nine telescopes. And every Friday night -- weather permitting -- the Observatory opens its doors to the public, including townspeople and students. It is estimated that more than 2,500 visitors each year enjoy these popular open houses, which are hosted by two paid assistants who operate the telescopes, answer the many questions, and display educational videos. On special occasions, such as the passage of a bright comet, an eclipse, or an opposition of a prominent planet, as many as 500 visitors have crowded the Observatory on a single night.


The University of Florida Astronomy Teaching Observatory is located on the UF campus, south of the Reitz Union parking lot, and west of the Aerospace Engineering building, off of Museum Road.

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The mission of the Teaching Observatory is to support the instruction of undergraduate astronomy laboratory courses and to accommodate the Astronomy Department's Public Open Houses. To fulfill this mission, the Teaching Observatory is now equipped with a variety of telescopes and accessories.


All the telescopes (except the 5-inch Schmidt-Cassegrains) are equipped with drive correctors and hand-held slow-motion control panels. The 12-inch Cassegrain and the 8-inch Clark are permanently mounted inside the observatory building, which is equipped with a sliding roof. The Schmidt-Cassegrains are mounted on six permanent piers in front of the observatory building.

An astronomical CCD camera (SBIG ST-6) is available that produces images to complement visual observations during the instruction of the undergraduate laboratory courses and the public night events


Brief History

Established in 1956 to house an historic 8-inch Alvan Clark refracting telescope donated by a wealthy Chicago architect, Richard Schmidt, the University of Florida Astronomy Teaching Observatory was originally located on a small hill south of the University Police Station overlooking what is now the Medical Center. By the late 1960's the university decided to build a Centrex telephone system building on this side. Consequently, the Observatory was moved to its present location south of the Reitz Union about 1970.

Campus Teaching Observatory

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