Some 30 odd miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Nantucket is one of the best places to stargaze in the US. On a clear evening, the heavens put on an awe-inspiring show. For the best seat in the house, you’ll want to head to Loines Observatory. Its two domed telescopes produce captivating images of the galaxies and offer great fun for all ages. Read on to learn more about the famed observatory and Nantucket’s connection to the stars.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LOINES OBSERVATORY
On your next Nantucket visit, wish upon a star from Loines Observatory. The facility houses two impressive telescopes for public viewings and research: a beautifully refurbished antique 8-inch Clark telescope and a new state-of-the-art 24-inch telescope. Read on to learn why the observatory belongs on your Nantucket bucket list.
Loines Observatory was constructed in 1908 and named in honor of Maria Mitchell, the world’s first professional female astronomer, who was born in Nantucket in 1818. Mitchell went on to create navigation for sailors, served as the Nantucket Atheneum’s first librarian, and discovered the first comet through a telescope, for which she earned a gold medal from the King of Denmark.
The observatory is now a part of the Maria Mitchell Association, a non-profit dedicated to furthering science education, encouraging women in science, and serving as a science resource for Nantucket. (Nantucket Aquarium, Vestal Street Observatory, Natural Science Museum, and the Mitchell House also belong to the organization).
In 2009, Loines Observatory was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring for their immersive internships in astronomy and astrophysics.
The legendary Clark telescope is one of the world’s most advanced astronomic devices. It was used to map expeditions including the Apollo Moon Voyage and was involved in studies of Mars. From 1913 to 1995, Loines telescopes were solely responsible for an array of wide-field glass photographic plates that recorded large swaths of the sky. Today, the new 24-inch telescope plays a pivotal role in research within our own galaxy and beyond.
Loines Observatory offers several opportunities throughout the year for the public to enjoy the telescopes.
In addition to hands-on workshops, lectures, and special observational programs, the observatory hosts public stargazing events on Friday nights (in clear conditions), where astronomers give tours of the night sky, pointing out the planets, distant galaxies, and more.
During the summer months, grab a ticket for a tour of the Vestal Street Observatory before making your way to Loines. Vestal Street provides informative lectures, a scale model of the solar system, and fun activities like learning how to use a sundial.
STAY NEAR ONE OF THE BEST PLACES TO STARGAZE IN THE US
After a night of stargazing, rest your eyes at Anchor Inn. Book your stay in the cozy, first-floor Wanderer room and enjoy a queen-sized bed, private bath, a flat-screen TV, complimentary high-speed WiFi, and a decadent, house-made breakfast each morning of your stay.