Adler Planetarium

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The Telescope Experience: No Special Effects Required

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever looked through a telescope. Is your hand raised?

I was able to raise my hand about 20 years ago. When I was about 10 years old, my dad yielded to my incessant begging and finally gave me something that was (probably) more influential to the course of my life than my Nintendo NES or my comic book collection; he gave me a telescope. An old, beat-up, simple refractor on a splintered wooden tripod that he probably found at a garage sale, or maybe in a “free stuff” pile. Regardless, it couldn’t have been more magical to me.

Like many of us, my parents didn’t know the first thing about astronomy or telescopes. So, I was left to my own devices to figure out how the accompanying shoebox full of lenses and pieces fit together. With the right eyepieces eventually in place, I marveled at what I discovered through the lens for the very first time: the incomprehensible, alien surface of the Moon was made real and seemingly just within my grasp. Knowing never to stare into the Sun, it was a little while longer before I learned out how to add a simple filter to protect my eyes and safely investigate its mythical features in seemingly hyperreal detail. That’s how I remember it: simply inspirational.

These days – having earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics, and as a proud educator at the Adler Planetarium – I regularly ask my students to raise their hand if they’ve ever looked through a telescope themselves. I’m never disappointed to see the majority of those hands stay down. Instead, I’m humbled to imagine how I will be a part of their first telescope experience at the Adler.

Beginning this summer, the Adler is excited to open our Doane Observatory and bring that telescope experience to  you.  Starting today and continuing until Sunday August 10, the Doane will be open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11am to 3pm, free-of-charge for everyone.

Take a break from sunbathing on the 12th street beach to do some sungazing with us. Grab the kids, bike the lakeshore path, stop by the nearby hotdog stand, throw a frisbee around the park, and then just walk right up to and inside our observatory to transport your imagination and expand your mind before the backdrop of our magnificent city skyline. No special effects required.

If you make it out on a weekday, you’ll also have an opportunity to meet one of our amazing Teen Interns. These Chicago Public School students have trained alongside our always welcoming and wonderful Astronomers and adult staff to become certified telescope operators and Doane facilitators. They’re ready to give you a tour and answer all your questions.

The Doane experience is also part of Adler’s Chicago Summer of Learning program, so make sure the young people in your life engage in this city-wide learning experience with us.

So, if your hand isn’t raised, get down to the Adler. Your magical, hyperreal, and inspirational telescope experience is waiting for you.  The Doane Observatory is open.

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