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Kirkwood Observatory Now Open

Last updated on Friday, March 23, 2012

(BLOOMINGTON) - Students can turn their eyes to the sky tonight at the opening of the historic Kirkwood Observatory on campus.

After closing its doors for the winter, the observatory is now open for its weekly open houses that will run through mid-November. At the open house, visitors will be able to scan the night sky with the observatory's telescopes and see infrared camera demonstrations.

Session begins at 9 p.m., the earliest time that stars will be visible with
daylight saving time.

Here are five things you didn't know about campus's very own observatory.

1. It's old - The observatory was built in 1900 just northeast of the intersection of Fourth Street and Indiana Avenue. It was dedicated by then-University President Joseph Swain in May 1901.

2. Kirkwood lived - The observatory is named after famed astronomer and IU mathematics professor Daniel Kirkwood, who spent more than 30 years on the IU campus before his death in 1895. Kirkwood is known for his research about meteors, as he provided the first substantial evidence that meteor showers are made of debris from disintegrated comets. He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Bloomington.

3. You can get close up - The 12-inch refracting telescope in the observatory can make the craters and ridges of the moon visible to the human eye, as well as sun flares and sunspots.

4. It's had a face-lift - At the time of the observatory's 100th anniversary, the building closed for about three years for renovations. While repairs were made to the dome and roof of the building, the historical nature of the building was preserved.

5. There are changing times - The opening times of the observatory are constantly changing. As daylight hours lengthen during the summer, opening times get pushed back. On April 11, the observatory will open at 9:30 p.m., and by May 9 it will open at 10 p.m. After June 20, visitors can enter at 10:30 p.m.

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