Doane Observatory

Discover new worlds in space exploration in the Adler Planetarium's Space Visualization Lab.

About The Doane Observatory

Visit the largest aperture telescope available to the public in the Chicagoland area. The Doane Observatory is located east of the Adler’s main building and beside the shores of Lake Michigan. With its 20-inch (0.5 m) diameter mirror, the Doane can gather over 5,000 times more light than an unaided human eye, allowing you to see celestial objects like the Moon, planets, stars, and galaxies that are trillions of miles away.

In June 2013, the Adler launched the Doane Observatory Teen Docent Program Pilot, which was made possible by the generous support of the MacLean Family. To learn more about the museum’s efforts to expand programming for young people engaged in hands-on STEM learning experiences at the Adler, visit the Doane Observatory Renovation page.

The first phase of renovations for the Doane Observatory is complete. Come check it out during Adler After Dark and select times during museum open hours.

The Doane Observatory is open periodically for safe, daytime telescope views of the Sun from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm every day, weather permitting. Please inquire at the Box Office when you arrive at the Adler to find out if the Observatory is open that particular day. Because use of the Observatory is highly dependent on weather conditions and volunteer schedules, this daily schedule may change, at the last minute, without advance notice.

Our Observatory is often staffed by trained Adler Planetarium telescope volunteers! Interested in becoming a volunteer? Visit our Volunteer page to find out more.

The Adler Planetarium is grateful to the Petrovich Family Foundation and Jeff Rothstein for their leadership and generous support of the Doane Observatory renovation.

Seeing Is Believing

asseen_doaneWhile bright nighttime lights of a city like Chicago, with millions of residents, place some limitations on what can be observed with the Doane, we have very good views to the east over Lake Michigan. As a result, the Doane can be a powerful tool for astronomers. Here we present a small sampling of astronomical objects that have been observed with the Doane. These images have been minimally processed with a computer (using standard techniques to correct for camera “noise” and to improve sensitivity and contrast), but the colors and structures visible in these images are all real.

Caveat: because many of these objects are extremely far away from Earth (and thus very faint), they have been photographed using a series of time-exposure images. Not all of these objects will be visible using the naked eye at the Doane. Additionally, the human eye alone is not sensitive enough to detect the colors of these very faint objects when looking through even the largest of telescopes. We mention this not to be discouraging, but rather so that our visitors will have realistic expectations when they visit the Doane. The Doane is a wonderful tool, but even it is limited by the laws of physics and human biology!

The Doane also houses instruments for daytime solar viewing including a Coronado SolarMax 90 hydrogen-alpha telescope and a dense filter for our “white-light” telescope for safe Sun viewing!

Technical Details

The Doane is a classical Cassegrain reflector. This means that it uses curved mirrors to collect and magnify light. Variations of the Cassegrain design are used in nearly every professional observatory today because they allow for long focal lengths (and hence, potentially high magnifications) with a relatively short telescope tube.

Mounted on a fork-style equatorial mounting that continually moves the 500-pound telescope, it precisely tracks celestial objects. The tracking system relies on a clock drive that turns the telescope at the same rate as the earth rotates. This keeps celestial objects centered in the field of view. In fact, if special limit switches didn’t prevent it, the telescope would rotate itself in a full circle once every 24 hours.

The Doane has a 0.5 m diameter aperture and 4 m focal length, which give a focal ratio of f/8 at prime focus. The mirrors are coated with a special aluminum compound to make them as reflective as possible at optical wavelengths. However, over time, oxygen and air pollution cause the coatings to tarnish and lose their reflectivity. So from time to time, the mirrors are entirely removed from the telescope, cleaned, and re-coated with fresh aluminum to keep them as shiny and efficient as possible.