Being part of the volunteer community at the Adler Planetarium is a great opportunity because it allows you to work with a diverse group of people and explore new vistas in the world of astronomy.
There’s always so much going on at the Adler that most people don’t realize the Adler is one of Chicago’s leading hangouts for amateur astronomers, and many of us, myself included, donate our time as telescope volunteers.
I work during the day, but many of my fellow telescope volunteers are available to conduct solar observing where you can see features on the Sun like prominences and sunspots. And these features are often larger than the entire Earth!
At nighttime events, like the 21-and-older Adler After Dark, we’ll have a half-dozen or more telescopes set up and pointed towards the Moon, a planet, a double star or a bright deep-sky object that is visible even in Chicago’s light-polluted skies. Basically, whatever is up at the time we observe.
The Adler has a collection of about a dozen telescopes of various sizes (or apertures) and designs (reflecting, refracting, etc.). It’s a great opportunity to get hands-on experience with a variety of equipment that you don’t have to own yourself. Right now, I’m in the process of being certified to operate the telescopes in the Doane Observatory. The Doane houses a 20-inch telescope, the largest telescope available to the public for observing in the Chicago area, and I’m excited because the Adler has recently announced some improvements that will make the Doane even more accessible to the public.
I consider the Adler to be a great starting point for anyone who is interested in amateur astronomy. When I started, much of what I learned about the sky and equipment was from existing telescope volunteers. In fact, I wouldn’t own the telescope I own today if it wasn’t for the encouragement and guidance of certain fellow volunteers!
One of the greatest things about being an amateur astronomer is getting to share my passion of astronomy with the public. And the Adler offers me the ability to do this. I’m not sure when I got bitten by the astronomy bug – it may go back to when my father took me and my brother to a local planetarium where I grew up in New Jersey – but when I see a child get excited after seeing Saturn and its rings, I hope that I’ve inspired that child to pursue a lifelong passion for astronomy.
Volunteers play a vital role at the Adler, helping to carry out the mission of the museum in a variety of different ways. The Adler is currently is looking for volunteers to work with the public and behind-the-scenes. Are you that person? If so, visit our Volunteers page for more information.
Written by Linda Saucedo, telescope volunteer at the Adler Planetarium.