Astronomy Nights are held on the first and third Thursday of each month that the university is in session. Astronomy Night activities are appropriate for ages 7 and up. The free program begins with an indoor planetarium show at the John R. Kirk Planetarium (tickets are REQUIRED for the planetarium show). A second show will be offered if the first one reaches capacity. After the planetarium show Smolen Observatory will be open for telescope viewing only if the sky is clear (no tickets are required at the Observatory). Call the Observatory at 845-257-1110 to hear a message indicating if the public viewing has been canceled due to cloudy weather. Visitors can participate in either the planetarium show, observatory telescope viewing, or both.
Astronomy Night telescope viewing begins shortly after sunset and therefore the start time changes according to the seasons. The current Astronomy Night schedule is as follows:
|Season||Dates||2016-2017 Dates||Planetarium show times
||Observatory open (if sky is clear)
|Fall||September – Daylight Savings Time ends (mid-November)||Sept. 1
|7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. if necessary)
Daylight Savings Time ends (mid-November) – Daylight Savings Time begins (mid-March)
|6:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. if necessary)||7:30-9:30 p.m.|
Daylight Savings Time begins (mid-March) – May
|7:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. if necessary)||8:30-10:30 p.m.|
|Summer||May – August
There will be no show on July 6. A makeup show has been added on June 29.
|8:30 p.m. (9:30 p.m. if necessary)
Free tickets for all Astronomy Night Planetarium shows are available one week before each show and must be reserved online. There is a limit of 5 tickets per group. Printed tickets must be presented at the door for admission. We will no longer be issuing tickets at the door. Tickets are void if presented after the start time listed on the ticket - latecomers will NOT be seated.
- Tickets are required for public planetarium shows.
- Planetarium shows are appropriate for ages 7 and up.
- Planetarium shows take place in a dark indoor domed theater.
- Please arrive before the start time. Latecomers will not be admitted.
- For large groups (more than five) we recommend that you schedule a private show at the Planetarium.
- The Planetarium is located in Coykendall Science building.
- A typical viewing night at Smolen Observatory will include a planet or two, star clusters, binary stars, and nebulae.
- Observatory visitors will spend most of their time outdoors. Be sure to dress appropriately; it always feels colder when you are standing still for long periods of time.
- Visitors of any age are welcome at the Observatory, but we ask that younger children be under adult supervision at all times.
- The Observatory is wheelchair accessible.
- You may come and go to the Observatory as you please during the viewing time.
- Tickets are not required for the observatory viewing.
- Once the viewing has begun the outdoor lighting surrounding the Observatory will be turned off. Be prepared to walk to and from your vehicle in the dark.
- There are no restroom facilities at the Observatory.
- Scout troops, school groups, etc. are welcome to attend the public viewing nights. We do appreciate you letting us know in advance so that there are not too many groups present in one night.
- The Observatory is located in the Alumni Soccer Fields on the south side of the campus.