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About the FAU Astronomical Observatory
The Astronomical Observatory is housed under a four meter diameter dome on the Boca Raton campus of Florida Atlantic University. We welcome students, faculty, staff and members of the general public to join our scheduled observations or our public viewing events. Our telescope is mounted on a small platform, at the top of stairs, looking out of the roof of our building, over Boca Raton, to space and beyond!
Location and Maps
Location: We are located in South Palm Beach county, on Florida Atlantic University's Boca Raton Campus in the Science Building (formerly known as the Science & Engineering Building), #43, 4th floor, Room SE-434.
Maps: This Google maps link shows our location at: 26° 22' 23.85" N latitude and 80° 06' 05.05" W longitude. Or use the information on the parking map provided by the campus. Jump to the Parking Locations section on this page, for particular information regarding visiting.
Public Viewing Night Observations:
There is no charge for these Public Viewing sessions. While anyone may attend these viewing sessions, students should not expect to receive credit for these sessions.
Please note that night sessions are conducted in our
Details on the Class Credits for FAU Students
We currently offer extra credit for FAU students' Intro to Astronomy class. The amount of the credit offered
is 5 points for a night session and 3 points for a solar session. Though students may come as often as they like to any of the
lectures, attendance is accredited only once per semester. We record your attendance with a
The lectures will be provided even if the weather does not provide favorable conditions for star gazing. As the lectures begin promptly, please show up on time so you can follow the discussions.
If you can not make the regularly scheduled observation time, you can contact me for an appointment, however, you do not need to make an appointment for an already scheduled session.
And yes, your friends and/or family may attend the sessions, after all, it is their universe, too!
Planning a Visit?
Are you planning to come for a visit? Some folks have come to visit from a rather long distance only to be surprised that they can not see what they wished to see. To prevent disappointments from your trip, here are a few simple tips to check out before you come:
1.) CHECK THE WEATHER. The General Sky Conditions links
on the Observatory's Front Page include weather conditions as well as information about what is
up in the sky. The Clear Sky Clock for Boca Raton provides information
for the sky conditions for astronomers. In general, the darker blue a square is for a described hour, the better the conditions.
The best conditions have columns of dark blue blocks for the hour. Clicking on the colored block bar of the Clear Sky Clock leads
to more in depth coverage.
2.) CHOOSE YOUR CLOTHING FOR THE WEATHER. While the Observatory is inside the campus's Science Building, you will experience outdoor conditions when the dome's doors open to the outside for there is no glass separating you from the outdoors. A glass covering could not be made well enough to avoid disturbing a telescope's view. Domes need to be open for some time so that the temperatures can stabilize with the outside, otherwise, convection (where hot air moves up as cold air moves down) occurs. Looking at a star, while the air inside of the dome convects with the outside, shows a disturbed view of the star, just like looking through a mirage across a hot road on a summer's day or up at a light from the bottom of a pool. To avoid this, the dome is opened so that the air temperatures equalize and becomes more stable. Thus, it may be rather hot or cold in the room when you come.
3.) CHOOSE YOUR CLOTHING FOR COMFORT AND DECENCY. Ladies, I do not recommend heels nor skirts. The stairs to the platform are steep and you may have to wait a while on them for your turn. And then once you are there, you may have to deal with the uncomfortable idea that there may be people looking up at you from the room below. I suggest you plan accordingly.
Of course an additional consideration for decent night sky viewing, is to have skies that are not filled up with man made sky glow. More information about this artificial intrusion into the wonders of the heavens can be found at this link of Light pollution vs. Astronomy page.
Directions and Parking Locations
Visitors to FAU's campus who want to attend a public viewing night observation, parking is now permitted to you in the same Lot 4, just outside the Observatory, from 6:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
A map of the Campus with parking information came be found at this link here. We are on the eastside of the roof of building 43, which appears near the center of the map. A closer view of the new parking lots and roads can be accessed at this link here. In this image, our building and the Observatory on the top appears here on the far left side of the image.
Why Florida Astronomy?
Florida boosts no mountain at all in the state. Its highest point is on the slope of a hill that peaks in Georgia. Having a high location normally benefits an observatory as it allows them to look above an interfering atmosphere that blurs their views. The state is also almost totally surrounded by ocean and has plenty of lakes, which increases the humidity here. So what benefit does Florida offer to astronomy to boost so much astronomical glass to be invested here?
Well, there are a lot of people in the state with time to look up and enjoy the heavens and many of them remember just how enjoyable clear, dark and starry night skies are to behold. But besides having such a populace interested in Astronomy, I can think of five major benefits that Florida offers to the science, especially for America.
Perhaps it isn't much to boost of, but they are astronomical advantages to our state. If people would better protect the night skies by eliminating the light pollution here, then astronomical tourism to the state would be greater as well. I think that "Come to Florida for the beautiful oceans to relax at during the day, and the oceans of stars to enjoy viewing at night!" could be a winning advertising campaign for the state, don't you?
Can't make a regular session? Then contact me for an appointment. Call:
Our Facebook Link
We have welcomed many different groups to come to visit our observatory, from school classes, to extracurricular groups and day camps.
On cloudy days or evenings, we will still offer lectures or video presentations to our visitors.
For those that can not make our Public Viewing events, there are various astronomical viewings available through out the state, to the public, such as in:
FAU has a 14 inch Celestron Edge HD Schmidt-Cassegrainian telescope that is mounted on a new Losmandy HGM Titan Equatorial Drive system. Plus, we have upgraded to a new Daystar 0.5Ĺ Quantum Professional Edition Hydrogen-α filter. This offers us an image uniformity that has a peak transmission guaranteed within a FWHM of 0.5Ĺ to beautifully enable us to see prominences "live" on and above the Sun's chromosphere. All of these new additions were made possible by FAU students through a grant from the FAU's Technology Fee.
This is something that you and the community will be able to utilize and enjoy for years to come!
As the observatory does not have its own foundation and suffers from image blurring vibrations from the building's machinary or from people, we have mounted our telescope and equatorial drive on pedestal that incorporates a newly and rather uniquely designed (and continuously worked on), vibration dampening system. This system is uses an interalized weighted "keel" with a vibration dampening, "wiffled" tube, which sits in about 7.0 gallons of a highly viscious silicone oil from Dow-Corning. The top end of the keel is attached the top plate of a set of parallel plates that sandwiches a set of helical isolating springs and bricks of lead, as seen in the image here. The lead provides the inertia for the springs to work against as the vibrations come from below. Very much like the shock absorbers on your car, the majority of the car's mass rests on top of the absorbers. When your car hits a pothole, the shocks push your wheels down to help keep the rest of the vehicle moving evenly along.
The keel hangs down through a large hole in the bottom plate, so it is not connected to it. The sandwiched springs absorb some of a vibration's shock energy. The energy that does pass through them will cause the keel to move or oscillate a bit, which then will have to move through the viscious oil. The oil causes drag forces on all of the keel's surfaces, which dampens out the vibrational energy. The added dashpots help slow down side to side tilting. Yes, you can still make the telescope shake if you try to, but the shaking comes to a stop much faster now than it ever did before. This design was suggested by FAU's machinist Jeff Webb and then worked on Jeff and by FAU's other machinists Fredrick Knapp, Mark Royer, and myself.
We also have the following accessories for our telescope: a Losmandy Gemini Computer for deep sky objects, a Spectroscopic filter, CCD cameras, a new Broad-Spectrum Solar filter for the new telescope to view sunspots.
Finally, we have also started a collection of meteorites for display. If you wish to learn more about meteorites, I would recommend a visit to Washington University in St. Louis.
Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, Florida
E-mail: vandernoot at sci dot fau dot edu
Phone: 561 297 STAR (7827)
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