Doane Observatory

horizontal photo of the Doane Observatory during the day with green ivy covering the building. Picture is taken facing south with Lake Michigan to the right of it.

The Adler Planetarium’s Doane Observatory is pretty special. It is home to the largest telescope available to the public in the Chicagoland area! That means that guests get to see the sharpest and brightest view of our universe that Chicago has to offer. It gathers over 7,000 times more light than the unaided human eye, allowing you to see celestial objects that are trillions of miles away. And we think that’s pretty cool!

Observing Opportunities

While we try to open the Observatory on Wednesday nights during Adler at Night (also known as Illinois Resident Discount Days/free days), the weather makes the schedule a bit unpredictable. To know when the Doane will be open, join our Facebook Group. You can also check in at the box office on the evening of your visit to inquire about the availability of the Observatory.

Visiting the Doane

Image Caption: The Adler Planetarium Doane Observatory July 2021

Where Can I Find the Doane Observatory?

Great question! The Doane is actually located outside of the Adler. You can find it to the east of our main building, right next to the shores of Lake Michigan. Just follow the sidewalk around the building. If the doors are open, you’re welcome to come on in and check out the sights!

But, why is our Observatory in downtown Chicago?

This means it’s much easier for you to get to us! Even in Chicago’s light polluted skies, we can spot planets, moons, stars, and more. We know our views could look better if the telescope was located far from city lights, but since our goal was to get your eyes up to our telescopes, putting the Observatory at the Adler made perfect sense in 1977—and it still does 45+ years later.

Our Team

Our Observatory is staffed by some of the most awesome, trained telescope volunteers this corner of the Milky Way. Each volunteer goes through technical training on how to operate a telescope and learns practical observing techniques. Plus, they’re equipped with a ton of cool facts and information about the Sun and other celestial objects.

Fun Facts About Our 24-inch Telescope

Adler Planetarium 24" reflecting telescope in the Doane Observatory after installation in 2020.
Image Caption: Adler Planetarium 24″ reflecting telescope in the Doane Observatory after installation in 2020.
  • In all, our telescope gathers about 7,000 times more light than your eye alone. 
  • Some of the internal pieces of our telescope were 3-D printed.
  • Several parts of our telescope are made of carbon fiber.
  • The mirrors of our telescope are made of fused silica and coated with a reflective layer of aluminum. 
  • The main part of the telescope is not a single solid tube. There are trusses & struts that connect pieces of the tube together, with openings in between. This keeps the overall weight of the telescope down and also helps with airflow through the telescope. 
  • Our telescope weighs 240 pounds.
  • The L-shaped mount weighs 338 pounds. 
  • Even though our new 24-inch telescope is larger than our prior 20-inch telescope, the combination of carbon fiber pieces, open trusses, and 3-D printed pieces means that our new telescope and mount together weigh only about 1/3rd what our prior telescope and mount weighed.
  • What’s the most distant object our telescope can see? That’s kind of a hard question to answer given the light pollution in Chicago, but if the sky conditions are really, really good, we might be able to catch 3C273, a quasar located in the direction of the constellation Virgo. 3C273 is about 2.4 billion light years away… meaning if you can spot this object, the light hitting your eyes left it 2.4 billion years ago.
  • Technical Information About The Telescope

Thanks To Our Sponsors

The renovations to the Doane Observatory and the Observation Park completed in 2021 have been supported by passionate donors including tremendous support from: Founding Donor, The Petrovich Family. Lead support was provided through an Anonymous donor and the Public Museum Capital Grants Program of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois State Museum.

Additional generous donations were provided by: the A. Montgomery Ward Foundation, John A. Hutchings, Richard W. Oloffson and Bank of America, N.A., Trustee, Thomas J. Anderson and Family, the Brinson Foundation, the Dr. Scholl Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. John W. Estey, Mr. Joseph T. Lower, Mr. and Mrs. William J. Lutz , The MacLean Family, Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey S. Rothstein, the Searle Family, and Sidley Austin.

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