The University of Rochester's C. E. Kenneth Mees Observatory is opening its doors again this summer, offering stargazers an ideal vantage point for surveying the heavens.
Located 2,000 feet above sea level, on Gannett Hill in the Bristol Hills 40 miles southeast of Rochester, the observatory will offer free tours Friday and Saturday nights from June 2 through Aug. 26. The recently upgraded facility now features computerized tracking, enabling the telescope to automatically find and track more than 1,000 celestial objects.
The tours consist of a short slide presentation, a description of the facilities, and, when the sky is clear, a look through the observatory's 24-inch reflecting telescope. The tour is conducted by undergraduate students rain or shine and lasts approximately 2 to 3 hours. On clear nights visitors can observe planets, star clusters, nebula, and even galaxies. Tours generally start around 8:30 p.m.
Since each tour is limited to 25 participants, reservations are required and may be made by calling the University's observatory reservation office at (585) 275-4385. Those interested are encouraged to call soon, as the tours fill up quickly. Registrants will be mailed information, including directions to the observatory and the starting time, about two weeks before their scheduled tour. Tourists are encouraged to dress warmly as it is usually 10 to 20 degrees cooler on Gannett Hill than in nearby areas.
The observatory is located on 70 wooded acres donated to the University by the Gannett Family of Rochester and by Ontario County. The observatory was constructed through funds provided by the National Science Foundation, Eastman Kodak Co., and the family of Dr. C. E. Kenneth Mees, a former vice president of Kodak Research Laboratories. University students and professors use the facility for research and teaching about astronomy and astrophysics.