Today's Hours: 10:00 am to 5:30 pm
Independence Ave at 6th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20560
Looking through telescopes at astronomical objects during the day? That's right! Come by the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory to look through our telescopes and discover craters on the Moon, spots on the Sun (using safe solar filters), the phases of Venus, or other wonders of the universe. When the weather is clear, the Public Observatory is open for daytime telescopic viewing, guided by our staff of astronomy educators. Portable telescopes provide different views of the Sun and Moon. You can also participate in hands-on, interactive activities, learn more about astronomy and telescopes, and sometimes talk with a research astronomer during Astronomy Chat.
Outside on the National Air and Space Museum's east terrace.
12:00 to 3:00 pm, Wednesday through Sunday, weather permitting.
The Observatory is currently closed for maintenance. During this time, find us at the Museum entrance on Independence Avenue with portable telescopes or inside the Explore the Universe gallery at a Discovery Station for astronomy activities.
The schedule is subject to change. Check at the Observatory entrance or the Museum's Welcome Center.
During our public hours, watch live video of the Sun, Moon, or the planets taken through one of our telescopes.
The centerpiece of the Public Observatory is a 16-inch Boller & Chivens telescope, purchased in 1967 by Harvard College Observatory. It is named the Cook Memorial Telescope in memory of Chester Sheldon Cook, a long-time member of the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston. The telescope was used by generations of students at the Harvard-Smithsonian Oak Ridge Observatory in Harvard, Massachusetts. With the closing of that Observatory in 2005, the Cook Memorial Telescope is now on loan to the Museum as the primary instrument in the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory.
The Observatory also houses several solar telescopes that allow observers to safely view the Sun in different types of light. With the white-light telescopes, you can see sunspots on the Sun's surface. The hydrogen-alpha (red light) and calcium-K (purple light) telescopes can reveal a variety of solar features in the Sun's atmosphere.
Phoebe Waterman Haas received her doctorate in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1913 — one of the first American women to earn such a degree. She also studied at the historic Lick Observatory near San Jose, California. She is believed to be the first woman astronomer to conduct her own telescopic research and not rely on the observations of others. The observatory was named for her in recognition of a $6 million donation from the Thomas W. Haas Foundation to establish an endowment for the Museum's Public Observatory Program. It is the largest donation ever given to the Museum for science education programming. Phoebe Haas was the grandmother of the foundation's president, Thomas W. Haas.
What can visitors do in the Observatory?
When the weather is clear, visitors will be able to look through telescopes to see the Sun (safely), the planet Venus, or 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.
What if it is raining or cloudy?
During overcast or rainy weather, the Observatory will be closed to the public. If the Observatory is closed due to weather, join us at the Discovery Station inside the Explore the Universe gallery for astronomy activities.
Is the Observatory ever open at night?
The Public Observatory is open for special nighttime viewing once or twice each month, weather permitting, with a break during the summer months when it doesn't get dark enough to observe until late. 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 accepting applications.
Is the Observatory wheelchair accessible?
Yes. The terrace and observatory dome are both wheelchair accessible. The main telescope is fully accessible as well, thanks to an extended eyepiece that can accommodate any height or viewing angle.