U.S. Naval Observatory Hosts Open House

By Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, March 29, 2009

The U.S. Naval Observatory will hold a rare open house Saturday as part of a celebration of the International Year of Astronomy marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first examination of the heavens with a telescope.

The free open house, at 3450 Massachusetts Ave. NW from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., is the Washington area keystone of four days of events called "100 Hours of Astronomy." It will be the first time since 2001 that the observatory has opened its doors fully to the public.

Visitors can see the famous -- and still used -- 26-inch "Great Equatorial" telescope and the 115-year-old, 12-inch Alvan Clark refractor telescope. They will learn the exact time from the country's Master Clock, which helps keep accurate everything from watches to Global Positioning Systems. After dark, telescopes will be trained on the moon, Saturn and other celestial sights.

Parking will be limited; visitors should use the lot across from the British and New Zealand embassies. The N2, N4 and N6 Metrobus routes serve the Dupont Circle Metro station and pass the observatory. Riders should alight at the British Embassy and walk to the observatory gate. Coolers and large bags are not allowed. Cameras will be permitted.

For information:

Other events of 100 Hours of Astronomy (

Thursday: Michael Shay, a University of Delaware astronomer who studies plasma physics, lectures on space weather at Owens Science Center, 9601 Greenbelt Rd., Lanham. Hosted by the Astronomical Society of Greenbelt. 7:30 p.m.

Saturday: Explore the Universe -- Family Day. Hands-on activities at the National Air and Space Museum, National Mall. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Stroll the Planet Walk along the Baltimore-Annapolis Trail. Get your passport to the planets at the Sun Station Sculpture behind the Harundale Mall, Glen Burnie, or the Pluto sculpture at Earleigh Heights ranger's station, Severna Park. Hosted by Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails, with experts from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Elementary and middle school students can explore the universe. Goddard Visitor Center, Goddard Spaceflight Center, Greenbelt. 1 p.m.-3 p.m.

"Yuri's Night" celebration of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's first flight into space. 8 p.m.-1 a.m. at Goddard Visitor Center, Greenbelt.

Astronomical Society of Greenbelt dedication of the new Greenbelt Municipal Observatory, which features a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain Celestron telescope, at Northway Fields Park, Greenbelt. 2 p.m.-5 p.m. After sunset, enjoy a star party with society members.

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