View the Sun and other wonders of the Universe with us at the Observatory!
Outside on the National Air and Space Museum's southeast terrace, near the corner of Independence Avenue and 4th St. SW, Washington, DC
12:00 pm to 3:00 pm, Wednesday – Saturday, weather permitting
If the Observatory is closed due to weather, join us inside for hands-on astronomy activities.
See below. Schedule subject to change.
About our Telescopes
Our largest telescope 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. The Cook Memorial Telescope was loaned, and later donated by Harvard, to the Museum as the primary telescope in the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory.
Our favorite objects to observe with the Cook Memorial Telescope are planets and double stars.
We also have several solar telescopes that allow observers to safely view the Sun in different types of light. Our white-light telescopes show us a view of the Sun's surface. Our hydrogen-alpha (red light) and calcium-K (purple light) telescopes shows us the Sun's atmosphere.
About Phoebe Waterman Haas
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 to directly use the Lick telescope, which with its 36” lens was one of the largest telescopes in the world at that time. 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.
Questions & Answers:
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, or when it is extremely hot or cold, the Observatory will be closed to the public. If the Observatory is closed due to weather, join us at Discovery Stations inside the Explore the Universe or Exploring the Planets galleries for astronomy activities.
Is the Observatory ever open at night?
The Public Observatory is typically open for stargazing once or twice each month, weather permitting. Check the Museum's calendar of events our next stargazing event.
Can you really do astronomy in the daytime?
Yes! Visitors will be able to observe craters on the Moon, the phases of Venus, and features on the Sun (through our safe solar filters).
Can I volunteer at the Observatory?
Yes! The Observatory periodically accepts applications. Please note that volunteering at the Observatory is only at our Washington, DC location.
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.