The Maryland Science Center is home to a great many scientific tools, including one on the third floor that truly takes visitors out of their element. With an eight inch lens, the refracting telescope in the observatory there provides new views of the night sky to many area residents.
The telescope contains optics that were hand built by Alvin Clarke and Sons and has been used for public observing since the 1920s. It was originally located at the Maryland Academy of the Sciences on Charles Street, but found a permanent home at the Science Center in 1976.
According to Rich Stein, Observatory Manager at the Maryland Science Center, the largest telescopes today are typically used for research. Most of these are reflecting telescopes, containing parabolic curved mirrors that focus light. According to Stein, the largest of these is run by the University of Chicago and is 40 inches.
Coupled with the planetarium, where visitors can see projections of the night sky during the day, the observatory continues to provide a unique place for education about the cosmos.
Saturn Photo: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech