Yerkes Observatory | Midwest Living

Yerkes Observatory

373 W. Geneva St.
Williams Bay  Wisconsin  53191
United States
(262) 245-5555
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Public tours every Saturday.

Midwest Living Review

Melanie Radzicki McManus
Stop in this ornate, 19th-century observatory to see the largest refracting telescope in the world.

Astronomy can be a complicated subject, but Yerkes Observatory makes learning about the stars fun and interesting. Sitting back from the road on a beautiful 77-acre parcel of land, the observatory was built in 1897 as part of the University of Chicago Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Public tours are offered on Saturday mornings; there’s no fee, but a $5 donation is suggested. Tours last 45 minutes and include intriguing stories about the Gothic architectural details on the limestone building. Yerkes houses the largest refracting (lens) telescope in the world; shortly after it was created, lens telescopes were replaced by reflective telescopes, which produced much clearer images.

The highlight is a trip into the facility's 90-foot dome, where visitors can look through that famous telescope and watch the 73-foot elevator floor in operation. Make sure to spend a little time exploring the main hallway to learn more about the observatory, telescopes and a student who later went on to create the famous Hubble Telescope. There's also a small museum and gift shop. Check the website to see if your visit coincides with one of the nights when the observatory allows visitors to gaze at the heavens through a special 2-foot-diameter telescope ($25).


June 30, 2012

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