Adler Planetarium Welcomes New Telescope

Lisa Fielding
January 28, 2020 - 2:19 pm
Adler Planetarium welcomes new telescope

WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A giant crane hoisted the Adler Planetarium's newest resident Tuesday morning into it's home at the Doane Observatory.

"It's a huge day for us," said Michelle Nichols, Director of Public Observing, Adler Planetarium.

The 24-inch, 250 pound telescope will collect 44 percent more light than the old telescope.

"It's a bigger telescope, so bigger is better as far as telescopes go," she said "You can see dimmer stuff, you'll have better optics, better resolution, better detail, all of that."

The new telescope replaces the old one which was removed in October after 32 years. 

"This is a big deal, because this just doesn't happen very often. This is only the third telescope that has been in this observatory in over 40 years," Nichols said.

Adler Planetarium welcomes new telescope
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

The instrument is manufactured in Adrian, Michigan at a company called Planewave Instruments. 

"There's a concrete base, there's an angled piece that sits on top of that, then there's an L shaped mount that sits on the angled piece and then the telescope is the last piece to go in. It came in in one big piece and that's attached to the L shaped mount," she said.

Nichols said the telescope will be great for both visual observing and for research using cameras and instruments.

"The mirror for the main telescope is four inches wider than the last one. The telescope itself is physically a bit shorter than the first version. It weighs about a third of what the prior telescope did. It's wider so it'll collect more light," she said.

Adler Planetarium welcomes new telescope
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

The Adler is creating a research program for high school and undergraduate students beginning mid-late 2020.

"We have a robust telescope observing program. We involve volunteers, we involve students. We teach kids how to operate telescopes. There's no other robust telescope program like this anywhere in the country. It got even better today," she smiled.

The Doane Observatory opened on August 4, 1977. The first telescope installed was a 16-inch reflector. In 1985 and 1986, thousands of people came to the Adler Planetarium to view Halley’s Comet. So many people came, in fact, that the extra revenue generated was used to purchase and install a larger 20-inch DFM research-grade reflector telescope.  The new 20-inch telescope was installed in March 1987. In 2013, regular daytime facilitation of the Doane Observatory was added to daily programs, including facilitation in the summer led by teen interns.

In 2014, the Doane Observatory received a much-needed upgrade of the telescope control system, a new ingress/egress doorway to the telescope room was added, and the former mud-and-rock crawl space beneath the telescope room was built out and outfitted as the Petrovich Family Observing Gallery and Lab.

Adler Planetarium welcomes new telescope
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

"This is a big deal because this just doesn't happen very often. This is only the third telescope that has been in this observatory in over 40 years. We've got a new toy to play with," Nichols said.

The telescope will make its public debut in late Spring.

"We need to still get the mirrors aligned, we have to train about 70 people to operate the observatory first, so we have to learn how to use the new telescope. There's a lot we have to do before we're ready to open to the public, but we can't wait to show it to everyone," Nichols said.