Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium

Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium Holcomb Observatory & Planetarium has been serving Butler University students and the Indianapolis public for over 65 years. The observatory is open to the public a majority of weekends and private groups can schedule at other times.
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Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium has been serving Butler University students and the Indianapolis public for over 60 years. The observatory, one of the largest public observatories in the world, houses a 38-inch Cassegrain reflector in addition to a number of smaller telescopes. It is the ninth largest telescope East of the Mississippi River. The observatory can be visited during our regular weekend public tours or groups can schedule private tours at other times. The telescope underwent a $425,000 refurbishment by Astronomical Consultants and Equipment to greatly improve its optics, operation, and research ability. This refurbishment was made possible by Dr. Frank Levinson. The telescope is now fully operating again and giving us superb views of our Indiana night sky.

Operating as usual

INDY-HENGE has arrived!   What is this Astronomical Event/Alignment?   When we near the Equinox the SUN RISES DIRECTLY E...
09/22/2020

INDY-HENGE has arrived! What is this Astronomical Event/Alignment? When we near the Equinox the SUN RISES DIRECTLY EAST and SETS DIRECTLY WEST. Most midwest cities, such as Indianapolis, have streets laid out in an East-West pattern thus the Sun will be aligned with our streets and buildings at sunrise and set allowing the Sun to shine directly down them near the Equinox. This year the Autumnal Equinox occurs on September 22nd. You may have noticed this effect, that is the Sun being in your eyes, over the last week or so when driving to work in the morning or home in the evening! This can result in some spectacular photos with tall buildings.

The Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight.  Within the city expect perhaps 25-40 meteors per hour.   In dark skies away fr...
08/11/2020

The Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight. Within the city expect perhaps 25-40 meteors per hour. In dark skies away from the city expect up to 100 meteors per hour. Choose a dark location with few obstructions for viewing. The best time will be prior to 2AM looking high in the NE sky. Bright moonlight from the last-quarter moon will begin to interfere with catching a glimpse of the spectacle after 1AM Wednesday morning. Meteors will still be able to be seen throughout the week but at diminishing numbers.

If it happens to be cloudy you can watch a NASA's broadcast live here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21X5lGlDOfg on NASA TV and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/NasaMeteorWatch/posts/3298125646913305

COMET NEOWISE has entered our evening skies about an hour after sunset!   This is the brightest comet for northern hemis...
07/16/2020

COMET NEOWISE has entered our evening skies about an hour after sunset! This is the brightest comet for northern hemisphere observers since Hale-Bopp in 1997. And although the comet will fade in the coming weeks it’s also climbing higher and higher in the evening sky, which will partially offset its dimming. It will be about the same brightness as the North Star. But if you want to easily see its tail USE BINOCULARS. It will be visible LOW IN THE NORTHWEST, in the bottom reaches of the constellation Ursa Major (The Big Dipper).

Note that while it changes position each day, it does not by any means “streak across the sky”. Its relative movement against the background stars is more akin to that of the Moon plodding across the sky (whose obvious motion is detected over hours or days) than that of a shooting star (whose obvious motion is seen in the timescale of seconds). In the chart, the vertical scale line to the right indicates 10˚ (degrees). This represents about the width of your fist held at arm’s length. This means that, at one hour after sunset, the comet will go from about one fist-width above the horizon on the July 15 to three above the horizon on the 23rd.

Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium's cover photo
03/12/2020

Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium's cover photo

Please note that due to Butler University moving to virtual instruction, we are CANCELLING ALL TOURS until further notic...
03/12/2020

Please note that due to Butler University moving to virtual instruction, we are CANCELLING ALL TOURS until further notice.

After a mysterious four-month fading streak, the star known as BETELGEUSE could be on its way to regaining its shine.  O...
03/02/2020

After a mysterious four-month fading streak, the star known as BETELGEUSE could be on its way to regaining its shine. One leading explanation for the dimming is the emergence of a large, unusually cool convection cell. Another is that the star could be moving behind a dust cloud. More info can be found here: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00561-z

A New Mini-Moon Was Found Orbiting Earth. There Will Be More.The object, a car-size asteroid called 2020 CD3, won’t be h...
03/01/2020
New image of Earth’s new mini-moon | EarthSky.org

A New Mini-Moon Was Found Orbiting Earth. There Will Be More.

The object, a car-size asteroid called 2020 CD3, won’t be here for long, and new telescopes will help us spot more of these objects.

Late in the day on Thursday, astronomers released this new image of 2020 CD3, a small object now confirmed to be orbiting Earth temporarily. It was apparently captured into Earth orbit 3 years ago. Its fate, here.

It's looking like we'll have clear skies this evening, so get outside around 7PM, look to the WEST, and you'll be greete...
02/27/2020

It's looking like we'll have clear skies this evening, so get outside around 7PM, look to the WEST, and you'll be greeted by the sight of the crescent MOON & VENUS side-by-side. These two are the two brightest objects in our night sky. Over the next few days the MOON will drift higher into the sky as it approaches 1st quarter.

The 38-inch Holcomb Telescope is all prepped for an evening of public observing.   As a side note the long telescope att...
02/21/2020

The 38-inch Holcomb Telescope is all prepped for an evening of public observing. As a side note the long telescope attached to the right side of the main telescope is a 6-inch Alvan Clark & Sons refractor that dates back to 1883. It was Butler University's 1st telescope and is still in great condition.

Clear skies have finally arrived! This weekend (Feb 21st & 22nd) we'll be showing the fulldome immersive program "From E...
02/21/2020

Clear skies have finally arrived! This weekend (Feb 21st & 22nd) we'll be showing the fulldome immersive program "From Earth to the Universe" along with a tour of the stars and constellation of our winter sky. Afterwards visitors will have the opportunity look through Indiana's largest telescope. One likely target is the ORION NEBULA (photo on the right) along with other assorted celestial hors d'oeuvres.

Doors open at 7:00 PM
Planetarium Show at 7:30 PM
Telescope Viewing from 8:30 to 9:30 PM
Cost: $7 Adults, $5 Children

Our programing includes an immersive the fulldome feature film From Earth to the Universe.  This is followed by a star/c...
02/16/2020

Our programing includes an immersive the fulldome feature film From Earth to the Universe. This is followed by a star/constellation show highlighting our current evening sky and where to find the planets in the sky. Following the planetarium portion of the evening visitors will then have the opportunity to view the ORION NEBULA, the MOON (if at the proper phase) and other assorted celestial hor d'oeuvres through Indiana's largest telescope, weather permitting. Viewing through the telescope is always free and weather permitting (click on ClearSky Clock below for likely weather conditions).*

-> Tickets can be purchased in the lobby after the doors open at 7 PM.

-> Admission for the planetarium show is $5 for children and students under 18, and $7 for adults. We accept cash or credit.

-> Due to the length of the weekend planetarium shows, they are recommended for ages 5 and up. For younger children we highly recommend our more age appropriate weekend matinees which we periodically advertise.

-> Note that we have limited seating capacity so if the 1st planetarium show fills up we run a 2nd and perhaps 3rd planetarium show that night. If you are in the 2nd planetarium show, then we reverse the order of the evening and get you started on telescope viewing immediately. This should result in very little delay in your visit.

Note that we will be closed during the first half of March due the Butler University Spring Break.

If a weekend tour doesn't fit your schedule, consider scheduling a group tour for your group at another time.

If it is clear Tuesday morning (the 18th) we'll have the incredible sight of MARS DISAPPEARING BEHIND THE MOON.  These e...
02/16/2020

If it is clear Tuesday morning (the 18th) we'll have the incredible sight of MARS DISAPPEARING BEHIND THE MOON. These events are known as OCCULTATIONs.

WHEN: Prior to 7:06AM EST. Don't be late, Mars will disappear behind the Moon by 7:07AM EST! So start viewing by 7AM. Note that the time listed is for Indianapolis and can vary by a few minutes depending where you are in the state.

WHERE: Look South-SouthEast for the CRESCENT MOON about 20 degrees above the horizon. MARS will be just to the left of the Moon.

WHAT DO I NEED: Your own eyes. MARS and the MOON are bright enough to easily see with out optical aid. Though binoculars or a telescope may enhance the view.

Ron Dantowitz took this image in Bonita Springs, Florida, during the June 2003 Mars occultation event.

02/14/2020
Zooming in on Betelgeuse

As we posted yesterday Betelgeuse has dimmed significantly in the past few months. This video takes the viewer from the constellation of Orion to the surface of the supergiant star Betelgeuse, which is undergoing unprecedented dimming. That dot appearing at the end of the zoom is a SPHERE image showing Betelgeuse’s visible surface, which has a size close to the orbit of Jupiter.

Credit:
ESO/P. Kervella/M. Montargès et al., Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgement: Eric Pantin, N. Risinger (skysurvey.org). Music: Johan B. Monell

The RED SUPERGIANT BETELGEUSE in ORION has undergone a STRIKING DROP IN BRIGHTNESS in the last 3 months.   It has gone f...
02/13/2020

The RED SUPERGIANT BETELGEUSE in ORION has undergone a STRIKING DROP IN BRIGHTNESS in the last 3 months. It has gone from 5TH to the 32ND brightest star in our sky, a 70% drop in brightness! It has been suggested it may be on the verge going SUPERNOVA. Some time in the next 100,000 years it will supernova but a more likely explanation is a large starspot is on its surface or it has ejected a shroud of gas and dust.

Go out for yourself and COMPARE BETELGEUSE TO ITS NEIGHBORS. Note that presently it is only about as bright as the the stars in ORION'S BELT and much dimmer than the star it normally rivals, the blue star RIGEL on Orion's knee. While you are at it you can follow Orion's belt to the to the lower left and find the Sirius, the brightest star in the sky other than our Sun.

You may notice in the plot in the upper left of the picture that Betelgeuse periodically dims and brightens on a 500 day cycle. But that change in brightness is relatively small compared to the recent drop. The next few months should give us more information as to what may be going on with Betelgeuse. By the way, if Betelgeuse did supernova it would be as bright as the Moon.

The HEART NEBULA -  If you are looking for an interesting date this coming Valentines weekend, we'll be open both Friday...
02/10/2020

The HEART NEBULA - If you are looking for an interesting date this coming Valentines weekend, we'll be open both Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th.
Doors Open @ 7PM
Planetarium Show @ 7:30PM (Cost $7 Adults, $5 Children)
Telescope Viewing 8:30 - 9:30PM

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
02/10/2020

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

It’s official - we’re headed to do science on the Sun! ☀️

At 11:03 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 9, Solar Orbiter, an international collaboration between the ESA - European Space Agency and NASA, launched aboard United Launch Alliance’s #AtlasV rocket for its journey to our closest star. The spacecraft will help us understand how the Sun creates and controls the constantly changing space environment throughout the solar system. The more we understand about the Sun’s influence on the planets in our solar system and the space we travel through, the more we can protect our astronauts and spacecraft as we journey to the Moon, to Mars and beyond. More: https://go.nasa.gov/37gtujI

If you haven't visited Holcomb Observatory in the last year stop in and enjoy our FULLY RENOVATED PLANETARIUM. New comfo...
02/08/2020

If you haven't visited Holcomb Observatory in the last year stop in and enjoy our FULLY RENOVATED PLANETARIUM. New comfortable seating, 5.1 surround sound, carpet, control console, and cove lighting. All to go with our new digital projection system. Rain or shine you can see the stars and travel through the galaxy! Special thanks to Bowen Technovation, Irwin Seating, Georgia Direct, Digitalis Education Solutions and our very own Butler University Facilities and IT staff.

This weekend we have a SUPER SNOW MOON (Sunday early morning).  "SUPER" comes from the fact that the Moon will be near i...
02/08/2020

This weekend we have a SUPER SNOW MOON (Sunday early morning). "SUPER" comes from the fact that the Moon will be near its closest point to Earth in its elliptical orbit. "SNOW" because its a FULL MOON that occurs in February. The Moon will appear 30% brighter and 14% larger than normal. If the Full Moon were occurring instead at Apogee (furthest in its orbit) it would be referred to as a MICRO MOON. If you want to see the Moon in detail visit us during our public hours on weekends.

APOD: A Sunset Night Sky over the Grand Canyon (2020 Feb 04)Image Credit & Copyright: Robert Q. Fugatehttps://apod.nasa....
02/05/2020
APOD: 2020 February 4 - A Sunset Night Sky over the Grand Canyon

APOD: A Sunset Night Sky over the Grand Canyon (2020 Feb 04)
Image Credit & Copyright: Robert Q. Fugate
https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap200204.html

Explanation: Seeing mountain peaks glow red from inside the Grand Canyon was one of the most incredible sunset experiences of this amateur photographer's life. They appeared even more incredible later, when digitally combined with an exposure of the night sky -- taken by the same camera and from the same location -- an hour later. The two images were taken last August from the 220 Mile Canyon campsite on the Colorado River, Arizona, USA. The peaks glow red because they were lit by an usually red sunset. Later, high above, the band of the Milky Way Galaxy angled dramatically down, filled with stars, nebula, and dark clouds of dust. To the Milky Way's left is the planet Saturn, while to the right is the brighter Jupiter. Although Jupiter and Saturn are now hard to see, Venus will be visible and quite bright to the west in clear skies, just after sunset, for the next two months.

A different astronomy and space science related image is featured each day, along with a brief explanation.

We have our first clear night in sometime.  Just before the Superbowl starts step outside, enjoy the warm weather, and l...
02/02/2020

We have our first clear night in sometime. Just before the Superbowl starts step outside, enjoy the warm weather, and look to the WEST-SW. You can't miss VENUS, VERY BRIGHT. Later in the week, MERCURY becomes higher and easier to spot in twilight, down to the lower right of Venus. The blue 10 degree scale is about the size of your fist held at arm's length. (Diagram from Sky & Telescope)

Over the next few nights you'll see the beautiful sight of VENUS and the CRESCENT MOON together. About 30 minutes after ...
01/26/2020

Over the next few nights you'll see the beautiful sight of VENUS and the CRESCENT MOON together. About 30 minutes after sunset, spot the thin crescent Moon low in the SOUTHWEST and use it to point your way to even lower Mercury, as shown at lower right. Binoculars will help penetrate the still-bright twilight. Much easier is high Venus! Over the next few days the Moon will slide past Venus. (From Sky & Telescope)

Our public weekend shows will feature the stars of our winter sky and the story of Orion.   This image shows Orion and o...
01/26/2020
APOD: 2020 January 20 - Quadrantid Meteors through Orion

Our public weekend shows will feature the stars of our winter sky and the story of Orion. This image shows Orion and other bright stars in our winter sky along with the Quadrantid Meteors.

Explanation: Why are these meteor trails nearly parallel? Because they were all shed by the same space rock and so can be traced back to the same direction on the sky: the radiant of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower. This direction used to be toward the old constellation of Quadrans Muralis, hence the name Quadrantids, but when the International Astronomical Union formulated its list of modern constellations in 1922, this constellation did not make the list. Even though the meteors are now considered to originate from the recognized constellation of Bootes, the old name stuck. Regardless of the designation, every January the Earth moves through a dust stream and bits of this dust glow as meteors as they heat up in Earth's atmosphere. The featured image composite was taken on January 4 with a picturesque snowy Slovakian landscape in the foreground, and a deep-exposure sky prominently featuring the constellation Orion in the background. The red star Betelgeuse appears unusually dim -- its fading over the past few months is being tracked by astronomers.

Image Credit & Copyright: Petr Horálek
https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap200120.html

A different astronomy and space science related image is featured each day, along with a brief explanation.

Doors open at 7:00PMFulldome planetarium show begins at 7:30PM.   Telescope viewing 8:30-9:30PM, weather permitting. Our...
01/25/2020

Doors open at 7:00PM
Fulldome planetarium show begins at 7:30PM.
Telescope viewing 8:30-9:30PM, weather permitting.

Our programing includes an immersive fulldome feature film, followed by a star/constellation show highlighting our current evening sky and where to find the planets in the sky. Following the planetarium portion of the evening visitors will then have the opportunity to view the ORION NEBULA, the MOON (if at the proper phase) and other assorted celestial hor d'oeuvres through Indiana's largest telescope, weather permitting. Viewing through the telescope is always free and weather permitting.

Admission is $5 for children and students under 18 and $7 for adults for the planetarium show. We accept cash or credit. Tickets can be purchased in the lobby after doors open.

Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium's cover photo
01/25/2020

Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium's cover photo

Tonight we'll have the trifecta of VENUS, SATURN, & the INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS) all together for a short time ...
12/12/2019

Tonight we'll have the trifecta of VENUS, SATURN, & the INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS) all together for a short time in our SouthWestern sky at 6:41PM. You'll need a unobstructed view of the SW horizon to see Venus and Saturn. A couple of minutes prior to 6:41 the ISS will appear low on the Western horizon the quickly move to the position shown in the image. After this it will disappear as in moves East into the Earth's shadow. Venus and the ISS will be the easy to spot due to their brightness. You'll have to look closely for Saturn since it is fainter that the other two.

This week SATURN & VENUS pass near each other in our Western sky shortly after sunset.   Venus will be by far the bright...
12/10/2019

This week SATURN & VENUS pass near each other in our Western sky shortly after sunset. Venus will be by far the brightest object. From Tuesday through Friday you'll see Saturn slide from above to below Venus. And the icing on the cake is that on Thursday evening the INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION will pass above the two planets at 6:41 PM. All the Details can be found here: https://starwalk.space/en/news/december-2019-venus-saturn-close-approach

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4600 Sunset Avenue
Indianapolis, IN
46208

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INDIANA’S PREMIERE SITE FOR ASTRONOMY & SPACE SCIENCE EDUCATION - Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium has been serving Butler University students and the Indianapolis public for over 60 years. The observatory, one of the largest public observatories in the world, houses a 38-inch Cassegrain reflector in addition to a number of smaller telescopes, and ranks among the 10 largest telescopes East of the Mississippi River. The observatory can be visited during our regular weekend public tours or groups can schedule private tours at other times. Two major upgrades have taken place in the last couple of years. First, the telescope underwent a $425,000 refurbishment to greatly improve its optics, operation, and research ability. The telescope now gives us superb views of our Indiana night sky. Second, the planetarium has been fully renovated and upgraded with a fulldome digital projector which can give visitors a fully immersive 3D experience in addition to nicely rendering the night sky. The combination of these two upgrades provides our students and visitors with a unique astronomical learning experience that is hard to match!

Though the equipment has been upgraded the observatory still retains its 1950s charm, particularly when you enter the lobby. You are still greeted with a beautiful terrazzo floor with the inset zodiac symbols, the star burst chandelier, and tall frosted windows. The telescope stills retains its 1950s look, and riding piggyback on the main telescope is the Butler University’s first telescope dating back to the 1880’s.


Comments

I was finally able to bring my 8 year old boys to the observatory tonight and we were treated to the Phantom of the Universe along with a nice story about some constellations and our first real view of Saturn and her rings. It was amazing for me and I think even more amazing for the boys. I was worried they'd lose interest but they were attentive and awed the entire time. Friendly and knowledgeable staff definitely ensure that we will be back! Thank you!
Will the planetarium be open for shows this evening? (8/25)
46 years ago we left the Moon never to return, until now! This weekend we'll be premiering the award winning, fulldome immersive program entitled "Back to the Moon for Good." Visitors will also have the opportunity look through Indiana's largest telescope. Likely telescope targets are the Moon, the Orion Nebula, and other assorted celestial hors d'oeuvres. Doors open at 7:00 PM "Back to the Moon" and Winter Star Show at 7:30 PM Telescope Viewing from 8:30 to 9:30 PM *Times will change once we are on daylight savings time Cost: $5 Adults, $3 Children For other weekend dates and show times please visit our website at https://www.butler.edu/holcomb-observatory/public-tours Description: Narrated by Tim Allen (voice of Buzz Lightyear), this is a complete behind-the-scenes feature on the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, the largest incentivized prize in history. The 25-minute movie chronicles 18 teams from around the world looking to make history by trying to land a privately funded robotic spacecraft on the Moon. The Google Lunar XPRIZE was designed to democratize space and create new opportunities for eventual human and robotic presence on the Moon via private industry. You'll see the engineering and innovation steps taken by the internationally distributed teams competing to land a spacecraft on the Moon and vie for additional prizes. The show highlights the human spirit of competition and collaboration as teams take on this audacious challenge. The audience is taken through a simulated successful launch, landing and lunar surface travel. The show ends with a stunning glimpse of a plausible scenario for our future on the Moon.