Observatory FAQ

Public Observing

Q: How much does it cost to visit the Observatory?
A: Admission is free!

Q: Do I need to know anything about telescopes to visit?
A: No. You don't need to know anything. We have volunteers who will show you how to look through the telescopes.

Q: Do I need to book an appointment to visit during public hours?
A: No. If you are visiting during our normal public hours on Thursdays or during a special public event, you can drop in any time during the stated period. Normal public hours are posted on our main webpage.

Q: The weather isn't very nice. Will you still be open for public observing tonight?
A: Normally we will still be open, even if it is raining or snowing. We won't be able to see the stars, but scheduled talks will still take place. We also have lots of interesting displays and demonstrations. If the weather appears to be dangerous, then we will close. Closures will be announced on Facebook and Twitter.


Q: What should I wear?
A: The telescopes are outside, and the domes are not heated. So wear warm clothes since it can get very cold!

Q: Are high-heeled shoes appropriate?
A: No. The floors of the observatory's domes are a metallic mesh, perfect for high heels to get caught in. Please wear flat bottomed shoes, since high heel shoes are dangerous in this environment.


Q: Is the observatory accessible to someone using a wheelchair?
A: Yes and No. The exhibit hall, theatre, and the outside deck are wheelchair accessible. However, the domes have stairs and are not accessible. Let us know ahead of time that someone with accessibility issues will be visiting, and we'll hook up a video camera to one of our telescopes, and you can observe the stars in the theatre.

Public Lectures

Q: When do the public lectures take place?
A: Public lectures take place during the first half hour of the public observing hour. For a full list of our events, take a look at our calendar.

Q: Where do the public lectures take place?
A: The lectures take place in the Observatory Theatre. This is the area with seats in the indoor part of the observatory. The room number is CCIS 5-240. For directions, see the "Directions" page on our website.

Q: Do I need a PhD to understand the lectures?
A: No! Our goal is that the lectures should be understandable to people with no prior knowledge of physics or astronomy.

Bookings for Schools and Other Private Groups

Q: Can I bring my Grade 6 or 9 class to the Observatory on a field trip?
A: Yes! Our first priority is to host visits from Grade 6 and 9 classes, since the Province of Alberta curriculum has astronomy components in these grades. If you are a Grade 6 or 9 teacher, please fill out the request form on the Sky Scan page. You can book either a daytime visit to view the Sun, or an evening visit to see the stars.

Q: How many students can I bring on a field trip?
A: We can host up to 30 students on a visit. There should be at least 2 adults accompanying each class. 

Q: Can I bring a different grade to the Observatory?
A: Yes, if we have a free spot in our schedule, we can book other grade school groups. Other equivalent-to-school groups like home-school groups, and youth groups such as Girl Guides are also welcome.

Q: Can I bring along a kindergarten class or a younger group of toddlers to the Observatory?

A: No. Young children (about 6 years and younger) have trouble looking through an eyepiece. They also often have trouble comprehending what they are seeing. We find that the observatory is not suitable for very young children.

Q: What is the cost to bring a class to the Observatory?
A: There is no charge to bring your class here for a visit. However, you will have to arrange your own transportation, and pay for parking. School visits are funded by the University of Alberta, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Edmonton Centre) and by other generous donors.

Q: Can I arrange to bring a group of adults for a private tour?

A: This depends on whether we have time slots available, and whether your group falls within our educational mandate. Please email stars@ualberta.ca with a description of your group and event and a decision will be made. It is possible that we will suggest that you instead bring your group to our public observing hours.

Q: Do you rent out the Observatory for private events such as weddings?
A: Sorry, no we do not.


Q: What other fun astronomy-related activities are there on campus?
A: There is an excellent collection of meteorites in the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences department. For more information, visit their webpage.


Q: How do I donate to support your public education programming?
A: Visit the donation page and click on "Department of Physics Observatory".

Q: What will donations be used for?
A: It costs us approximately $100 to host a grade school visit or to send an astronomer to visit a class room as part of the Sky Scan program. Donations allow us to keep our school programming accessible to everyone regardless of income