Night Observing Session

Spring 2020

* Due to University of Illinois COVID-19 protocols, observing sessions are suspended until further notice. Please contact your instructor with any questions about alternative assignments. * 

Night observing sessions will be held at the Campus Observatory, southeast of Foellinger Auditorium. At the observing sessions there will be 3 stations that you should visit in any order. Two of these are outside on the west side of the Observatory and the third station is the 12-inch telescope in the dome. At the two stations outside on the grass there will be (1) a T.A. who will be pointing out features of the night sky (constellations and the celestial sphere) and (2) one or two telescopes that are ordinarily pointed at the Moon or one of the major planets in our Solar System. Please see your class syllabus and/or webpage for specific information on the assignment you must complete.

To view objects through the 12-inch telescope, enter the observatory from the north door and go up the stairs to the observing chamber. Astronomy Department personnel will be present to operate and explain the telescope and the objects(s) being viewed. Freely ask questions and sketch what you see.

Objects to be featured at the observing sessions will be the Moon, planets, double stars, star clusters, gaseous nebulae and in rare circumstances a distant galaxy. You might even be lucky enough to see a comet. Each observing session will concentrate on only a few objects.


Observing session dates are tentatively scheduled as follows. Status updates for night observing sessions, including weather-related cancellations, will be posted to the Astronomy Night Observing Session Status Update Blog.

  • Monday, February 24, 7-9pm
  • Tuesday, February 25, 7-9pm
  • Wednesday, February 26, 7-9pm
  • Thursday, February 27, 7-9pm
  • Monday, March 2, 7-9pm
  • Tuesday, March 3, 7-9pm
  • Wednesday, March 4, 7-9pm
  • Thursday, March 5, 7-9pm

Due to inclement weather, additional dates have been scheduled as follows:

  • Monday, March 9, 8-10pm
  • Tuesday, March 10, 8-10pm
  • Wednesday, March 11, 8-10pm
  • Thursday, March 12, 8-10pm - CANCELLED

* Note: Instructors may have additional restrictions on allowed dates for their classes, check with your instructor or TA..

You may arrive when you wish, but be sure to allow approximately 45 minutes to one hour to complete all the observation stations before the end of session. Dress warmly.

All are welcome to look through the telescopes, including your friends.


Observing can be done only if the sky is clear. Sometimes it will be clear an hour before a session is to start, only to cloud over in the next hour. At other times the sky is cloudy at the time we want to open the observatory and it clears up after the professors and the T.A.s have gone home. It is obvious to say that the professors and T.A.s who are involved cannot control the weather, but we try to cope with the circumstances as best we can.

Also, if the temperature (including wind chill) is under 20 F, the session will be cancelled.

Subscribe to the Night Observing Session Status Update Blog below to receive notifications when a session is canceled due to weather conditions.


Updates for night observing sessions, including weather-related cancellations, will be posted to the Astronomy Night Observing Session Status Update Blog.

You can subscribe to the blog to get updates sent to you automatically!

Post to the Observing Session Status Update Blog (Staff only).