Astronomy Public Observing

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The department is proud to offer public observing nights at the Lewis Observatory that are open to the entire Goucher campus and extended community. Public observing nights will be held on the third Thursday of each month of the academic school year, weather permitting, or the fourth Thursday as a rain date. The observatory will be open starting an hour after sunset and continuing for approximately two hours. Click Here for more updates.

For more information, you can read our FAQ below, or feel free to contact the director of the Hoffberger Observatory, Dr. Ben Sugerman in the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy.

FAQs about Public Observing

Where is the observatory? The Hoffberger Observatory is located on the roof of the Hoffberger Science Building. To reach the observatory, take the northern stairwell up toward the second floor. The entrance to the observatory is clearly marked on your left just before the door to the second floor. Proceed up the stairs, across the hall, and up another set of stairs to exit onto the rooftop.

When is the observatory open? The observatory will be open for public observing the third Thursday of each month, weather permitting. Observing begins 60 minutes after sunset and will continue for roughly two hours. Please do not come until after sundown. Observing sessions occur September through December and February through May of each year (i.e., when school is in session).

What does weather permitting mean? The observatory will not be open during inclement weather, if there is cloud cover, a significant chance of rain, high winds, or high humidity.

What should I bring? Appropriate clothes, comfortable shoes, a red flashlight, if you have one (please do not bring white flashlights), and, if you want, a list of a few objects up in the sky that you want to try to look at.

What should I wear? The observatory is exposed to the open air, so you should dress appropriately for the season and for the forecast for that night. Wear comfortable shoes, as you may have to climb up and down a ladder.

What will we do at an observing night? Our faculty and trained students will show you a number of deep-sky objects and planets that are visible at that time of year, and tell you a little about each one. If it is possible, we will attach a digital camera or CCD and take pictures so you can download keepsakes of your observations.

Can I bring my own camera? Mounting a camera requires rebalancing the telescope, and often, recalibrating its pointing. In general, we ask that you use our CCD, however we will always try to accommodate your requests if attendance and time permit. Please, no flash photography.

Why no white flashlights or flash photography? When adjusted to the dark, the human eye's night-time vision is very sensitive to bright light. Red light does not hurt your eyes, but white flashlights and camera flashes can temporarily blind a person, which is unpleasant and can be quite unsafe. We ask that you use our red flashlights or bring your own, but leave the white ones at home, and turn off your camera flashes.

Can I bring children? Seeing deep-sky objects and planets is appropriate for all ages and we always welcome children, but please, be sure they have proper adult supervision. If you are intending to bring a large group, please notify us in advance so we can be prepared for appropriate content. The observatory is not designed to be safe for very young children, so please be mindful if you bring children under 5.

Is the observatory handicap accessible? Regrettably, it is not. There are two stairwells to climb to reach the roof.

I'd like to buy a telescope. Can you help? We can provide plenty of advice. If you want to purchase a telescope, talk to an expert or play with the latest models, Hands-On Optics in Damascus, MD is a short drive away. You can also get great information and deals from and

What have you observed? Since its inception in Fall 2008, we have observed Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune; the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), M51, the Ring Nebula, the Cat's Eye nebula, The Double Double (among many other double stars), and whole host of open and globular clusters.