Viewing Night on the 36-inch Research Telescope

Dedicated in 1956, the 36-inch Telescope near the top of Mt. Locke remains a powerful window on the universe. Its long focus allows for awesome views of the planets as well as excellent, high contrast views of deep space objects like globular clusters, planetary nebulae, and galaxies. Although not our largest telescope open for public viewing, the 36-inch has the great advantage of the Visitors Center securing more nights for public programs than on either the 82-inch or 107-inch, while still providing excellent views. Join us for a 36-inch Special Viewing Night and we're sure you'll agree!

With low levels of illumination, step-ladders, and a duration of 3 to 3.5 hours, this program is not suitable for young children and may not be for those with mobility issues. This program requires moderate physical agility and ability to ascend/descend 3 - 5 steps on a step ladder. The 36-inch dome is NOT wheelchair accessible. The fee for programs in 2018 is $75 per person (no senior, military, student, child, or group discounts).  (Fee subject to change w/o notice.)

Because the 36" Telescope is located near the summit of Mt. Locke, you will be leaving your vehicle at the Visitors Center and will be shuttled by the program host to the summit. This means that there will be no opportunity to retrieve a forgotten jacket or other item and leaving the 3-3.5 hour program early is not an option. Please keep this in mind when making your plans. It is NOT possible to participate in both a Star Party and a Special Viewing Night program on the same night.

Planet-Fest returns! With Jupiter already prominent in our southern skies, Saturn just beginning its evening sky visibility, and the Earth soon to pass its closest to Mars since 2003 (and closer than we'll be until 2035!), the Observatory will be hosting a number of "Planet-Fest" themed 36" SVN programs. The programs listed in our reservation system (see below ... currently July 20, 21, 22, & 31) as "Planet-Fest!" will offer views of all three of these incredible planets as well as a number of our regular deep-space/dark-sky objects. Some of the programs (those held while the Moon is prominent in the evening sky) will also feature views of several interesting Lunar features, as well. Join us in celebrating the return of these three stunning planets! More Planet-Fest programs through August & early September will be posted soon.

Before you sign up, be sure to check out our remote location.

Stay with us!

Special Viewing Night program participants have access to our on-site Astronomers Lodge.

Waiting lists are available via our reservation system (see below). However, cancellations are rare for our Special Viewing Nights so you may be better off planning for a different date than waiting for a cancellation on an already sold out program. The programs you see scheduled below (through April 2018) are the only dates currently available through April (dates for May - July will be posted shortly). Adding a waiting list request for other dates will not result in a program being added for those dates. New dates are typically released in March (for April - July), July (for August - November), and November (for December - March). Dates for June, & July 2017 are posted below. More Planet-Fest programs will be posted soon for August and early September.


The 0.9-meter (36-inch) Telescope at McDonald Observatory. Credit: Kevin Mace/Mc

0.9-meter (36-inch) Telescope, Dome