Campus & Community

Sky is the limit

3 min read

Harvard’s observatories have students seeing stars

At Harvard, the sky is the limit. Be it star gazing, or observing the sun, the moon, the planets, or the galaxy, the Science Center at Harvard University has it all for its students and its affiliates. Located on the eighth floor of the Science Center, the Astronomy Lab and the Clay Telescope are ideal for aspiring astronomers to be trained, observe, and get involved in a variety of interesting topics each semester. While the astronomy lab is fully equipped with computers, a heliostat, and a spectrograph for daytime observing of the sun, the Clay Telescope is home to the Harvard Observing Project (HOP), designed to get undergraduates interested in astronomy, and give graduate students chances to interact with undergrads and get more experience observing and teaching.

For all vintage astro-lovers there is also the Loomis-Michael Telescope which dates back to 1954 and is the heart of the Loomis-Michael Observatory. In order to provide an opportunity for Harvard students and affiliates to enjoy looking at the night sky, the telescope is reachable with card access by becoming a part of the Student Astronomers at Harvard-Radcliffe (STAHR), a student-run organization at Harvard.

A glimpse inside the Loomis-Michael Observatory in the Science Center, which is managed by students and open to all of Harvard’s friends and affiliates. Friends Samuel Meyer ’13 and Cameron French, an MIT graduate, visit the observatory often to look at the moon and Jupiter.
Part of the Astronomy Lab’s mini solar observatory, the rooftop heliostat is used by many students to make daytime observations of the sun by aligning the mirrors with it.
A student takes part in a daytime observation of the sun at the Astronomy Lab by looking through the spectrograph. When the light from the heliostat is directed into the slit of the spectrograph, the student can see the sun’s spectrum.
During a daytime sun observation at the Astronomy Lab, students search for sunspots when light from the heliostat is directed onto the table.
The Astronomy Lab is primarily used for undergraduate astronomy and Earth and planetary science courses.
At the Loomis-Michael Observatory on the 10th floor of the Science Center, the student-run Student Astronomers at Harvard-Radcliffe (STAHR) organization gives Harvard students and affiliates a chance to learn more about astronomy and enjoy looking at the night sky.
A chair bears the Greek name of the constellation Cassiopeia. The chair has been in the lab for as long as staff members can remember.
A dalek robot, a wooden artist’s mannequin, and a “Star Wars” toy are at home in the Loomis-Michael Observatory.
Nine-year-old Livis Gonzalez looks at Jupiter through the Loomis-Michael telescope while visiting Harvard with her parents.
Michael Goldberg, 7, visits the Astronomy Lab with his relative Yossi Mandel from Los Angeles. “My elder brother will be going to Harvard next year and we’re here to look around the campus,” said Michael while excitedly looking at the telescopes and other equipment.
Michael Goldberg peers through the Loomis-Michael Telescope while Allyson Bieryla, manager of the Astronomy Lab and the Clay Telescope, helps him understand how it works.
Livis Gonzalez makes the most of the Loomis-Michael Telescope.
Lab manager Allyson Bieryla observes the night sky through the Clay Telescope on the roof of the Science Center. The Harvard Observatory Project (HOP) uses the telescope to get undergraduate students interested in astronomy and give graduate students a chance to interact with undergrads.