Oak Ridge

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The Oak Ridge station of the Harvard College Observatory, located in Harvard, Massachusetts, is about 60 kilometers west of Cambridge.  It houses a wide array of historic and contemporary optical and radio telescopes, though they are no longer operational, except for the Optical SETI Telescope.  Instruments at this site provided the data that established the Harvard spectral classification system and the Harvard magnitude system.  Their counterparts at southern stations built for Harvard provided the photographic data that allowed Henrietta Swan Leavitt to discover the Cepheid variable period-luminosity relation.  The Oak Ridge station provided an invaluable observing experience and testing ground for students and faculty alike to engage in numerous observing and instrument development programs.  In 2005, the station was shut down.

Among its larger telescopes, the 61-inch Wyeth reflector was built in the 1930s and is the largest optical telescope on the Eastern seaboard. It entertained a wide series of active research programs in spectroscopy, photometry and instrument development, up until its closure in 2005.

The 84-foot steerable radio telescope, built in the 1950s, was used by Project BETA (Billion-channel ExtraTerrestrial Assay) from 1995 to 1999 in a search, funded by The Planetary Society, for radio signals sent by extraterrestrial intelligence.   Project BETA was replaced by the Optical SETI Telescope, which was inaugurated in 2006.

The 16-inch Boller & Chivens telescope, built for the Oak Ridge station in 1967, was transferred to our museum on loan from Harvard in 2009, where it currently is used for our Public Observatory Project.  We hope it likes its new home, where it can finally see the sky again, and share its view of the universe with the public!

National Air and Space Museum