Public Observatory Project (POP)
Look through the Observatory's 16-inch telescope to discover craters on the Moon, spots on the Sun (using safe solar filters), the phases of Venus, and other wonders of the universe. Participate in hands-on activities related to astronomy.
Location: The Observatory is located outside on the east terrace outside the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.
Hours (weather permitting): Wednesday through Sunday 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm.
(If you can't make it to the Museum, you can see live video of our observations below.)
Accessibility: The terrace and Observatory dome are accessible. Viewing through the main telescope is fully accessible to all visitors with an extended eyepiece.
Follow us on Twitter at @SIObservatory
Special Nighttime Observing (weather permitting):
Check our calendar for upcoming Stargazing at the Public Observatory nighttime events.
Schedules are subject to change and will be posted at Observatory entrance and at the Museum's Welcome Center.
About the Public Observatory:
- Check out this video of the Observatory in action with staff who work there.
- Learn more about the Public Observatory project on the Museum's AirSpace Blog.
Questions & Answers:
What can visitors do in the Observatory?
When the weather is clear, visitors will be able to look through the 16-inch telescope and additional portable telescopes to see the Sun (safely), the planets, and the Moon (when available), guided by our staff of astronomy educators. Visitors can also participate in hands-on, interactive activities to learn more about astronomy and telescopes at our Discovery Station inside the Observatory.
What if it is raining or cloudy?
During overcast or rainy weather, the Observatory will be closed to the public.
What kind of telescope is inside the Public Observatory?
The centerpiece of the Public Observatory Project is a 16-inch Boller & Chivens telescope. The telescope was originally part of Harvard-Smithsonian's Oak Ridge Observatory in Harvard, Massachusetts. It was used for astronomical research until recent years, and is now on loan to the National Air and Space Museum for the Public Observatory Project.
Is the Observatory ever open at night?
Occasionally the Public Observatory is open for special nighttime viewing. Check the Museum’s calendar of events or sign up to be notified via email.
Can you really do astronomy in the daytime?
Yes. Public programming at the Observatory will be primarily during the daytime. Visitors will be able to observe craters on the Moon, the phases of Venus, and sunspots on the Sun (through our safe solar filters). An assortment of portable telescopes will also be used to show different views of the Sun and Moon.
Can I volunteer at the Observatory?
Yes, we are currently recruiting volunteers.