Morehead Observatory’s 24-inch diameter telescope.

Morehead Observatory’s 24-inch diameter telescope.

Morehead Observatory

Morehead Observatory is home to UNC-Chapel Hill’s 24-inch diameter campus telescope. This telescope is used by both students and professionals, from around the world, and has detected cosmic explosions more than three quarters of the way across the observable universe.

The floor beneath the telescope is part of the observatory, and headquarters the Skynet Robotic Telescope Network, which manages approximately two dozen telescopes, spanning four continents and five countries.

Skynet HQ includes the Henry Cox Remote Observing Center, from which each of these telescopes can be accessed and controlled. Though most of the time Skynet does this automatically, without any humans in the loop.

Skynet HQ also includes space for torture-testing telescope components before shipping them out, and for building new telescope components.

Virtual tour of the 24-inch diameter Morehead Observatory telescope. Skip to 4:20 to see it (and the dome) move. With Prof. Aaron LaCluyzé.

Virtual tour of the Henry Cox Remote Observing Center. With Prof. Aaron LaCluyzé.

Virtual tour of Skynet’s hardware testing space. With Prof. Aaron LaCluyzé.

Guest Night Program

We open Morehead Observatory to the public eleven Friday evenings during the fall semester and eleven Friday evenings during the spring semester. Participation is free, though you must reserve your spot ahead of time.

Participants are treated to both telescope-to-eye observing of bright objects, such as the moon and planets, and telescope-to-camera observing of fainter objects, such as nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies.

Participants are also treated to a tour of the lab, including observing with our PROMPT telescopes in the Chilean Andes, via our Henry Cox Remote Observing Center.

Guest nights are usually run by an astronomy graduate student, and proceeds rain or shine. More information can be found here and here.

Check out the three videos on this page for a virtual tour of Morehead Observatory.

Daytime Tours

Morehead Observatory also hosts tours during the day. These are usually orchestrated by Morehead Planetarium and Science Center as part of their after-school programs for young students.

Special Astronomical Events

Morehead Observatory offers guest nights most weeks during the academic year, and Morehead Planetarium and Science Center offers skywatching sessions every month, weather permitting.

However, for major astronomical events, we team up. For example, in 2003, thousands of people came out to see Mars at its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years, over the course of multiple nights.

And in 2005, thousands more came out to watch Venus transit the sun.

We also host events for conveniently timed lunar eclipses.

My wife  Lois  welcoming Jupiter Ball patrons to the observatory level after dinner and drinks.

My wife Lois welcoming Jupiter Ball patrons to the observatory level after dinner and drinks.

Jupiter Ball

Most years, we also partner with Morehead Planetarium and Science Center for Jupiter Ball, their annual, black-tie fundraising event. After dinner and drinks, patrons visit the observatory level, where they can look through the 24-inch diameter Morehead Observatory telescope, and smaller telescopes on our observing decks. They can also tour our facilities in Chile, and do some observing, using our Henry Cox Remote Observing Center, as well as tour Skynet’s hardware testing facility and other rooms.