The Union College Observatory


Jupiter with Europa, shadow of Europa, and Great Red Spot on July 27, 2010. Orion Planetary Imager and Auto Guider (Webcam), 4ms exposures on the 20 inch (Pengfei Zhang and Francis Wilkin; animated gif by Jiri Matousek)


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Observer's page | Journal Seminar | Local Astronomy Links


View of the Union College Observatory on the Olin building 

Longitude 73 55' 41.88" W
Latitude +42 49' 03.47"
Elevation 294 ft

The main purpose of the observatory is education.
Union College students benefit from hands-on experience with current high-tech instrumentation.
A lab course in which students make professional type observations is offered regularly.
The observatory is used for senior theses and independent projects.
For example, students have used the telescope to study cataclysmic variable stars.
Once trained in the use of CCD cameras and data reduction, students are eligible for time at the SMARTS telescopes
in the Chilean Andes with professional, state of the art instrumentation
and some of the best observing conditions in the world!

Open houses for the general public are offered monthly, frequently timed near the first-quarter moon.
These are clear-weather only events, so we are closed if there is any precipitation, strong winds, or mostly cloudy conditions.

Note that with the exception of Homecoming and ReUnion weekends, all open houses are free and open to the public
with no tickets or reservations required. Only for Homecoming and ReUnion open houses do we issue tickets
at the Reamer Campus Center, and these tickets are free.

2011 Open Houses

Thursday, December 1, from 6:30-8:30 PM

Wednesday, November 2, from 6:30-8:30 PM

TBA, Homecoming Weekend, last weekend of October

Thursday Oct 6, From 7:30-9:30.Welcome Rising Stars!

Tuesday, October 4, from 7:30-9:30 PM Cancelled/postponed to Thursday due to clouds

Wednesday, September 7, from 8:30-10:00 PM

Key targets for September and October open houses: First quarter moon, Jupiter, asteroids Vesta and Ceres, Ring Nebula, Double star Albireo, globular star clusters, Uranus and Neptune, etc.


Thursday, August 4, from 8:30-10:30 PM

Thursday, July 7, from 9-11 PM (Saturn and Moon visible)

Wednesday, June 8, from 8:30-10 PM (Saturn and Moon visible)

Tuesday, May 10, from 8:30-10 PM (Saturn and Moon visible)

Tuesday, April 12, from 8-9:30PM

Note: Telescope drive recently repaired and the observatory is running again after a short hiatus.

Thursday March 10

Thurs Feb 24

Wednesday, Jan 12 (Jupiter visible)

Wondering what's going on in the sky this week? Try the Dudley Observatory phone line 518-382-7584 and their Skywatch line

2010 Skywatch Lectures at Proctors/GE theater!
Tuesday Oct 19 at 7:30pm: Prof. Alex Filippenko
Tuesday Nov 30 at 7:30pm: Prof. Jay Pasachoff

Old news:
Comet 17/P Holmes: Our first images taken thursday night Oct 25, 2007 are here and here. The images include luminance, red, visual (green) and blue filters with equal exposure times on 1 second.

Schools are invited for tours.  Contact Francis Wilkin, preferably by email including information about your group and schedule (, or call 388-6344).

The observatory is used for some astronomical research projects.   Even from Schenectady, the telescope can be used for some research studies, such as extrasolar planet transits and the study of cataclysmic variable stars (binary star systems in which a red dwarf star and a white dwarf are in tight orbits about each other, with gas tranferring from the red star to the white dwarf.)

BVR Color Images Obtained at the Union College Observatory

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M 42: Orion Nebula.  2/15/99 

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M 51: Whirlpool Nebula 

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M 27: Dumbbell Nebula 

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M 57: Ring Nebula 

Details of the optical telescope.

We also have a 2.1-meter radio telescope (a Haystack Observatory SRT):

        observes at 1,420 MHz:  sensitive to 21-cm emission of neutral Hydrogen


For more information:

Francis Wilkin, Observatory Manager


Physics and Astronomy Department Office


Physics and Astronomy Home Page

Observatory Webmaster     

Physics and Astronomy Chairman