What are your hours?
We are open Monday-Friday from 12-4pm (no reservations required)
Most Thursday and Friday nights (reservations required by calling 513-321-5186)
And on many special occasions. For our upcoming special events, please Click Here
There are two buildings on your campus. How old are they?
The main building was built in 1873 and designed by the famous architect Samuel Hannaford (who also designed City Hall and Music Hall in Cincinnati). Originally, the building had a cylindrical turret instead of a dome that rotated on old cannonballs. The dome was added in 1895. The 16” Clark telescope now resides here.
The smaller building was built in 1904 and features two domes - one for the old 11” Merz and Mahler telescope and a smaller cone-shaped dome that was used for comet hunting.
Why is there such a cool, old observatory here in Cincinnati?
The Observatory was founded by Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel. In 1842 he started a group called the Cincinnati Astronomical Society which raised money to build the telescope and first building. Mitchel sold shares at $25 apiece and raised about $9,000 for the telescope. He traveled to Munich Germany to purchase it and it was shipped through New Orleans to Cincinnati.
The first observatory was on Mt. Adams where the Monastery is located today. That Observatory was there from 1843-1873. In 1873 the telescope moved to its new home away from the city pollution in Mt. Lookout. The main building was designed by Samuel Hannaford. An additional building and telescope were added in 1904.
Is that where Mt. Adams got its name?
Yes. Mitchel invited John Quincy Adams to dedicate the building there. Before his visit, the hill was called Mt. Ida. This was president Adams last public speech before his death.
Mt. Lookout is also named for the Observatory since we do a lot of looking out. So that’s two of Cincinnati’s seven hills are named because of us.
Is the Cincinnati Observatory famous for discovering anything?
The greatest thing discovered in our telescope was a new star orbiting the star Antares. Antares is a red giant star marking the heart of Scorpius the scorpion. Most of the work done at the Observatory involved studying double stars, computing the orbits of minor planets (asteroids and moons), and cataloging the positions of thousands of stars.
Were any comets discovered at the Observatory?
Unfortunately not. We have a room specially designed to hunt comets. We call it our “cone room” because the shape of the dome resembles a cone more than a dome. Through a bad design, bad weather, and bad luck, we have not discovered one, single comet. But the “cone room” is cool to visit in the smaller building.