This section has information about the UMD Observatory operations. It is presented publicly so that all department faculty and students can easily access it whether they are on campus or elsewhere. It applies only UMD Astronomy faculty and students and is not relevant to the general public.

Using the Observatory

The students and faculty of the UMD Astronomy Department are welcome to use the UMD Observatory for their own research/personal observations. If you are unfamiliar with the equipment at the observatory, you must learn how to use the telescope(s). Please contact Elizabeth Warner by email or call at 301-405-6555. Other than Open House nights, the four permanently mounted telescopes, (the 7", 8", 14" and 20") are usually available for use. The 7" does have the equipment to be able to use a 35mm camera to do astrophotography. Students and faculty are also welcome to use the ccd camera on the 14" and eventually the one on the 20". There are also portable telescopes which may be checked out.

Scheduling Time at the UMD Observatory

Various parts of the observatory are used for classes at different times, as well as for Open Houses. Here is a list of regularly scheduled events at the observatory:

  • Mondays, 6:00 - 9:00 PM the lecture hall and, frequently, the Ultima 2000's are used by College Park Scholars during the Fall and Spring semesters.
  • The 14" Celestron and 7" Astro-Physics refractor in the East bay and the 20" in the West bay are reserved for ASTR 310 at all times (clear nights) during the Fall and Spring semesters.
  • Late in the Fall and Spring semesters, ASTR121 schedules a few observing sessions with the Ultimas.
  • The 5th and 20th of every month, all year round regardless of holidays, all buildings and telescopes are used for Open House.

A few other classes use the observatory on an irregular basis (i.e. on clear nights). To avoid conflicts with or between classes, any body (UMD ASTR students or faculty) wishing to use the observatory must sign up to use any part of the observatory at least 24 hours in advance. Please contact Elizabeth Warner by email or call at 301-405-6555.

Accessing the Observatory

You can pick up a key to the UMD Observatory by making arrangements with Elizabeth Warner in CSS room 2337. You must return the key by the pre-arranged time.

The one key you will be given will open the gate (it only works on the bottom lock), the outside doors to the lecture hall and the observatory, the closets in the lecture hall and observatory lobby, and the telescope bay roofs.

Rules of Use (for non-class use)

  • No more than 4 people per certified telescope operator should be at the observatory, with a maximum of 12 people out at any one time.
  • If ASTR 310 is using the 14", 7", or 20", please be considerate of them. No more than 3 people should go into the east or west bay at a time while 310 is in there.
  • The observatory facilities are not to be used for anything other than astronomy purposes!
  • All problems must be reported immediately by recording them in the logbook and emailing Elizabeth warnerem[at]astro[dot]umd[dot]edu.


All problems must be reported immediately to Elizabeth Warner!!! You can call from the observatory and leave a voice mail message at (301) 405-6555. Also be sure to note any problems in the observatory logbook.

The equipment at the observatory is old. The Astronomy Department is understanding about the fact that things can easily be broken. What will not be tolerated is failure to report problems. A failure to report a problem could result in a loss of privileges at the observatory.


  • People have a tendency to wander into the observatory if the gate is open. If you are worried about this you may want to shut the gate behind you.
  • Don't be alarmed to see the police drive through our parking lot or the landfill area behind us. They frequently check the place out, especially if they see cars in the area. Occasionally, they'll come into the observatory to see what's going on as well. Be nice and offer them a peak through a telescope!

Be sure to have your faculty or student ID with you when you are at the observatory. The police are pretty tough on trespassing out there.

Opening the Observatory

These pages are intended as a guide for those who have already been trained on the telescopes, they are not a substitute for physical training on the telescopes.

The specifics of these directions are for general (Open House) use. If you are just using the observatory for recreational purposes you may or may not want to use the lobby display monitor or the computers.

  • You must fill in the telescope log book which is kept on the shelves in the lobby area.
  • Turn on the monitor in the lobby. (optional)
  • Get computers for the 14" and 20" out of the closet. (optional)
  • Open the roofs. The observatory key opens both bay roofs. DO NOT count on the limit switches to work! Be prepared to let go of the key when the roofs are just clear of the wall.
  • The lobby and the bays have both white and red lights. When the white lights are no longer needed, they should be turned off. The white lights in the bays can be turned off by the pull chain on the light fixture (the switch on the wall controls the entire fixture). The white lights in the lobby are simply controlled by the light switches by the door.

Closing the Observatory

  • Be sure to turn off all telescope drives!
  • Put all lens covers back on. Don't forget about the finder scopes.
  • Put the telescopes back in their horizontal home positions. The telescopes will be damaged if they are not in their home positions when the roofs are closed.
  • Close the bay roofs.
  • Turn off the monitor in the lobby.
  • Put computers back in the closet 1104 and be sure closet is locked.
  • Fill in the log book. Be sure to note any problems in the log and also report them to Elizabeth Warner (you can leave me a voice mail message at (301) 405-6555 if I'm not around)!
  • Turn out all lights. Never turn off the red light outside the door - it needs to stay on at all times.

Before leaving, double check that all telescope drives are off!

When you leave, be sure you have bolted the observatory and lecture hall doors and locked the gate behind you.

Each telescope has its own page to describe how to operate it. Please note, however, that reading these instructions does not mean that you are qualified to operate these instruments! For training, email Elizabeth or call x56555.