The Springfield Science Museum's 20-inch Telescope and Observatory

The Twenty Inch Telescope. Photo courtesy of the Springfield Science Museum.

Set high above Springfield, on the rooftop of the Science Museum, is an astronomical observatory that houses a 20-inch diameter telescope. For over three decades, this instrument has been used to help educate the public about astronomy and space science. During this time, thousands of people have peered through it. The telescope was designed and built by members of the Springfield Stars Club, beginning in 1934, when the club first acquired a 20-inch diameter glass disk that would eventually become the telescope's primary mirror.

Hopeful of building a telescope to be located on Wilbraham Mountain, club members worked to grind this glass disk into a polished mirror until World War II interrupted their work. The unfinished mirror was then stored in the basement of the Science Museum until the early 1960's, when the Stars Club resumed the project. However, the club lacked the funds necessary to build the telescope and an observatory to house it, so once again the project languished. Finally, in 1968, thanks to a large annonymous contribution, completion of both the telescope and observatory were made possible.

The Stars Club donated the finished telescope to the Science Museum and it was installed there as part of an addition to the museum that included the Tolman Auditorium in the early 1970's. The new telescope and observatory opened to the public for the first time in May 1972. Over the years, the telescope has been opened to the public for regular monthly observing nights, and for such special celestial events as lunar eclipses and the record-breaking close approach of the planet Mars to the Earth in 2003.

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