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!

Even in Chicago’s light polluted skies, we can spot planets, moons, stars, and more from the Doane Observatory. 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.

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.


When you visit the Doane Observatory, you will find the building located outside of the Adler. The Observatory is 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!

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.

Our Telescope

Here’s more information about our PlaneWave CDK24 telescope in the Observatory!

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.


Situated immediately to the east of the Adler, the Doane Observatory opened in 1977 as a centerpiece of Adler public engagement with telescopes. The original 16-inch reflector telescope that was created in the Adler’s telescope mirror making lab was replaced in 1987 with a 20-inch (0.5 m) research-grade telescope from DFM, Inc. The Doane Observatory was renovated in 2014 with a new observing room and multi-purpose classroom, restrooms, and other enhancements to facilitate easier public access to the Observatory.

In 2020, a new 24-inch (0.6 m) PlaneWave CDK24 reflector telescope was installed.  The new infrastructure and installations support both public observing activities and conducting original research. While the Doane Observatory is located within light polluted skies, we can routinely produce reliable photometry on V=18 stars. Available research equipment includes a ZWO ASI183MM monochrome camera and ZWO electronic filter wheel with Sloan VBIR filters, a diffraction grating filter, and a methane filter. Current research interests involve photometry to create variable star and asteroid rotational light curves. Future research opportunities include supernovae monitoring, blazar monitoring, exoplanet observations, detecting impacts on Jupiter, and more.

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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