A Trip to Ladd Obsevatory in Providence

100 Year old refractor still in perfect condition

The Ladd Observatory is part of the physics department at Brown University in Providence, RI.

The observatory opened in 1891 and it houses a variety of instruments including a gorgeous 12″ refractor telescope made by John A. Brashear.

They have one night a week (tuesday) open to the public from 8pm to 10pm as long as the weather is good.

I had to stop in on open night to check things out. And I was very pleased. Here are some of my thoughts and impressions.

The whole building and set up with the instruments is a wonderful flash from the past. The building and the furniture are just so 19th century. You get the feel that Hubble himself walked around the building. And downstairs they have a couple of room with some backlit photographic plates of various astronomical objects.

There are a couple of rooms with these wonderful backlit photographic plates. I really took note of this because it is a great idea. When I have my observatory maybe I will do something like this. You can also see on the top of one of the units are three solar observing boxes.

About the night

There was a nice showing of people and during the course of the two hours I would guess that somewhere around 50 people showed up, some with children. And we all took turns looking through the big telescope at a nice view of Jupiter. It looked pretty good considering viewing conditions weren’t optimal. There were no clouds but the sky wasn’t very crisp. And of course there was a fair amount of light pollution seeing as the observatory is on the outskirts of Providence.

The group that was in charge of the observatory also brought out a couple more telescopes so people could get a look though them. One scope was a small Rich Field telescope and the other was a pretty darn nice 11″ Meade.

About the People

It was a wonderful night for me considering my absolute passion for telescopes and the people all clearly were passionate about astronomy and telescopes. I asked a whole lot of questions and it was a lot of fun. I listened in on, and participated in, a whole lot of conversations about telescopes and astronomy. So, just as in everything else it is the people that make or break an event – and these people were terrific.

About the Telescopes

I don’t know if they have more telescopes but I do know the observatory has a wide variety of astronomical instruments. The three scopes that I got a look through were the 12″ refractor under the dome and out on the observation deck was a 4 1/4″ rft and the 11″ meade.

The mead was of particular interest to me because I am wanting to buy something similiar. It was great to get a look at how it set up, how heavy it was and how it performed.

Over all, If you want a wonderful experience with a real telescope and a great group of people you really should check out the Ladd observatory. Every Tuesday night they meet (weather dependent) And you can check their website. They keep it updated so you can see if it is going to be open. They even have a recorded telephone line you can check with for updates. Ladd Observatory

When I arrived it was already pretty dark but I did get a picture of the actual observatory with the dome and if you look close you can see a star on the right side of the dome. Kind of neat.

The telescope is up there in the dome, and that railing goes all the way around it. You can walk that and the observing deck with the other telescopes is on the other side up there.