Inside Rensselaer
Hirsch Observatory Public Viewing
Dress warm, bring your mittens and warm hats, and come prepared to meet some really big stars. Rensselaer will once again open the refurbished Hirsch Observatory to the Rensselaer community and larger Capital Region community Friday evenings starting Feb. 1 through mid-November.

The more-than-65-year-old observatory, which sits atop the Jonsson-Rowland Science Center, will hold an open house every Friday evening 8-10 p.m. The program is held if it is clear or cloudy. Anyone from the community is invited to come. Children are welcome.

“On a public observing night you will be able to look at nebula, a couple of galaxies, planets, the craters on the moon, the rings around Saturn, and other objects like that,” says Heidi Newberg, associate professor of astronomy and observatory manager.

More than $70,000 worth of improvements were completed on the facility and its telescope last year. The telescope now has state-of-the-art controls. It has an automated, revolving dome and a new computerized system that features a menu of the stars that can be found in each evening’s sky. Users pick the star they want to see from the menu and the scope and dome revolve to focus on the star. The scope will then track the star across the sky as the Earth gently rotates.

The observatory serves as one of the only observatories in the Capital Region with regular public viewings. It also is a tool for the next generation of astronomers, including student members of the Rensselaer Astrophysical Society, to get hands-on experience with equipment comparable to that found in a national observatory.

Check the Observatory’s Web site at to see if the evening’s skies will be clear enough for a good viewing before you head out.

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Inside Rensselaer, Strategic Communications and External Relations
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 2, Number 2, January 31, 2008
©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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