Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Visit the Observatory

McCollum TelescopeThe UNI Observatory has been closed due to the pandemic since spring 2020.   Once conditions change, public shows will begin again, and they will be included in the UNI calendar of events.



During the fall semester, the outdoor observatory shows at McCollum Science Hall will start during the second week of classes, usually the first Thursday in September, and continue every Thursday night until Thanksgiving break. The show begins at 9 PM so long as we are on Daylight Saving Time. After the first Sunday of November, the show will begin at 8 PM.  The observatory will be closed during spring semester until the week of spring break (mid-March).  The first shows during the spring semester will be the first Thursday in the week after spring break, and shows will continue on every Thursday for the rest of the semester through the last week of classes. There are no shows during spring break, final exam weeks and summer months.

The observatory program will start promptly on the hour. You will want to be sure that you get to Lantz Auditorium (McCollum Hall room 137, the BIG lecture hall at the east end of the building) before the starting time so that the observatory guide can show you the way up to the roof. Don't wait inside of auditorium, but wait outside of it, in the lobby area near the polar bear. If you don't get there until after the start of the program, you can not go on the roof on your own, and you'll have to come back another Thursday night - this is for your own safety.

During cooler months, you will also want to dress warmly since you will be on the roof, and the wind is usually stronger up there and the observatory is not heated. And even if the daytime temperature was pretty warm, once the sun goes down, so does the temperature. Mosquitos can also be a problem, particularly during the warmer months.

Small children may have a hard time looking through a telescope, since they don't have precise motor skills, so you may want to make sure that a very bright object like the Moon or a bright planet is visible, so that they will be able to see something clearly. Since the observatory can be rather crowded, and the program is presented usually under dark conditions, it is not recommended that children under the age of 6-7 attend the observatory open houses for their own safety. It is against University policy for pets to be inside of University buildings, so please leave your pets at home.  The use of electronic devices (cellphones, ipads, blackberrys, etc) is strictly prohibited during the observatory show.

The observatory program will go ahead, regardless of the weather conditions. Even on cloudy nights, you will at least have the chance to learn about the observatory and the workings of the telescope.  Depending upon the number of participants and the weather conditions, the observatory show can last from half an hour to an hour or longer.

If you have any questions about visiting the observatory or if you would like to arrange a special visit for a group, please contact Dr. Siobahn Morgan, telephone: (319)-273-2389 (e-mail is preferred).