An End Of An Era At Adler Planetarium: Telescope Removed To Make Room For New, Improved One

Lisa Fielding
October 23, 2019 - 2:07 pm
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Wednesday marked a big day at the Alder Planetarium as a crane hoisted its giant telescope from its long-time home.

"This is a pretty exciting day in the history of the Doane Observatory at the Alder," said Michelle Nichols, Director of Public Observing.

After 32 years, the telescope is being replaced to make room for a new and improved one.

"The telescope has come out in three parts. The three heaviest parts came out through the roof today," she said. "The largest pieces weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 to 900 pounds each, so it's a pretty hefty piece of equipment."

Nichols said the old telescope has provided some amazing sights over the years.

"The things that people have enjoyed seeing the most, Saturn and its rings, for sure, Jupiter, the Moon, the Andromeda galaxy and some staff members saw Pluto some 20 years ago. There literally have been hundreds of thousands of people that have looked through this telescope over the years," she said.

Wednesday marked a big day at the Alder Planetarium as a crane hoisted its giant telescope from its long-time home.
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

The new telescope will collect 44 percent more light and have better optics.

"We are getting a larger telescope, which will allow us to see slightly dimmer stuff which is great and people will be able to take a look through this thing and it will allow us to do some research projects as well," she said.

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.

Wednesday marked a big day at the Alder Planetarium as a crane hoisted its giant telescope from its long-time home.
WBBM Newsradio/Lisa Fielding

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.

"We hope to have more eyeballs up to that eyepiece. That's my goal. We also hope to get research with high school and undergrads, having them help us explore new stuff out there that some of the bigger observatories can't do. Our new telescope will do great things. We're excited for this new chapter." Nichols said.

The new 24-inch reflector telescope is expected to be installed by the end of November.