As you might have read from my piece about Black Holes and Saturn’s Moon, space is my jam. I mentioned McDonalds Space Observatory because it’s the first observatory I had ever been to, and I the only one I’ve ever seen another planet at. I viewed Saturn from one of their massive telescopes and it was just incredible. To be here on Earth and see something so far away in space is amazing. What incredible technology we have in our time to be able to do.
In my many years of observing (the best way I can) space and planning trips for vacations, I’ve come across a few U.S. space observatories that I am planning to visit this year. They are all amazing in their own right; maybe just from the technology they have, or the view from where they sit, but these are some very special observation decks I’d like to call attention to:
The Mauna Kea Space Observatory in Hawaii
The Mauna Kea Observatories in Hawaii are 4,200 meters high and is home to the world’s largest astronomical observatory. Astronomers from 11 different countries operate their massive telescopes, 9 of which are for infrared astronomy, 3 that are for submillimeter wavelength astronomy and 1 that is used for radio astronomy. Mauna Kea, meaning “white mountain,” is exactly that. It is a dormant volcano on the island of Oahu.
Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin
Yerkes Observatory is located in William’s Bay, Wisconsin and was founded in 1897. It is home to the largest refracting telescope ever built. They are one of the only space observatories known for their work in stellar motion and cartography. Astronomer Gerald Kuiper discovered that Titan, Saturn’s Moon, had an atmosphere.
McDonald Observatory in Texas
This viewing site is located in Ft. David, Texas and is surrounded by beautiful mountains. They have 7 different telescopes used for research, a Telescope Park, and public viewing parties for the locals and travelers alike to come and see what they’re working on and view the night skies. They have recently been approved for construction of their new Giant Magellan Telescope. This project will put them on the map with the world’s most powerful optical telescope. While this observatory may not make a Top 10 list for the world just yet, it definitely holds a special place in my heart and is worth a visit. (Pictured in featured image).
There are many other awesome space observatories, not just in the U.S., but also in the entire world. When looking back at the Earth from the Moon, Neil Armstrong said, “I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” The universe is vast, and we are making many strides to learn as much as we can about worlds outside of our own. It’s amazing to be alive in a time where we have the technology to do so, and to have the opportunity to be reminded of the possibility that we are not the all mighty planet that we once thought we were. In a Time Magazine interview in 1995, Carl Sagan said, “There is perhaps no better a demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.” I think that says it all.
Don’t have the time to visit all these space observatories but still want to share the gift of space nerdery with your young ones? Space Scouts Summer Adventure may be just the ticket: