Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Old Hopkins Observatory & Mehlin Museum of Astronomy

Visiting the 1896 Inn in the next month and half is a great time to take advantage of visiting the local Planetarium. Late Fall and early winter weather conditions make for perfect atmospheric conditions for star and planet viewing. Grab an early dinner at the 6"House Pub or visit the Bar after the Planetarium shop for an even nightcap.

The Hopkins Observatory is the oldest existing observatory in the United States and houses the earliest Alvan Clark telescope.  In 1834, Prof. Albert Hopkins went to England, with the permission of the trustees of the college, to search for astronomical apparatus.  On his return, he enlisted some of his students to build a permanent observatory, which they constructed by hand from 1836 to 1838.  That building is now the planetarium.  It was originally located in the center of the quad but was moved to the far end in 1908 and to its present location in 1961.  Some of the original equipment from the 1834 trip to England still survives in this building.

Milham Planetarium Fall Schedule
Fridays at 7:30pm through Dec. 9
Reservations: 413-597-2188 or

Astronomy students at the college will host free shows for the public on the following Friday evenings at 7:30 p.m.: November 4, 11, 18; and December 2, 9.  Audiences will be treated to shows from the high-precision Zeiss Skymaster ZKP3/B opto-mechanical planetarium projector, installed in April 2005.

The Zeiss Skymaster is capable of demonstrating phenomena including: retrograde motions of the planets, phases of the moon, the varying temperatures/colors of stars, locations of neighboring galaxies, the mythological figures and zodiacal signs ascribed to constellations, the Southern Hemisphere’s sky, comets, artificial satellites, and much more.

Fall ’11 shows will be hosted by Williams College students Pushpanjali Giri ’14, Matthew Hosek ’12, Soraya Membreno ’12, and Muzhou Lu ’13.  Jay Pasachoff, Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy, is director of the Hopkins Observatory.

*Photo courtesy of Williams College