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Perkins Observatory - Delaware, Ohio
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Mr. 0
N 40° 15.058 W 083° 03.358
17T E 325141 N 4457640
Quick Description: An extension of the Ohio Wesleyan University. Located on US 23 south of Delaware, Ohio. Public programs are held for a small fee on most Friday and Saturday evenings, with some day programs held as well.
Location: Ohio, United States
Date Posted: 4/4/2007 8:00:10 PM
Waymark Code: WM1CHZ
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Jake39
Views: 135

Long Description:
Perkins Observatory has long lived through a tumultuous, and scientifically important history. The vision for this observatory was created by Hiram Perkins, who started planning the building in 1907. He funded the construction through monies earned from a hog farm used to feed Union troops during the Civil War. Groundbreaking was in 1923, where Perkins was in attendance. Sadly, Perkins passed away soon after groundbreaking so he never got to see the finished observatory which was completed in 1931. It is rumored that his ghost wanders the observatory.

Perkins wanted "to build an observatory of the first magnitude". He insisted that the telescope should exceed in size all other telescopes in this country at that time, except the 100 inch at Mt. Wilson. The 69" mirror took 4 failed attempts to create. On the 5th and final construction they had to take 8 months to cool the mirror to ensure its integrity. When finally installed the mirror was the 3rd largest in the world, behind the 100" Mount Wilson, and 72" at Victoria, British Columbia.

Conflicting reports of Perkins' history states that the observatory was complete in 1925, and at that time they used a 60" telescope borrowed from Harvard University until their 69" telescope was completed in 1931.

By all accounts, the observatory originally ordered a 60" mirror to be built by the National Bureau of Standards. The Bureau soon realized they had the capability to produce a 69" mirror, and did so. The folks at Perkins Observatory had to adapt their mounts to fit the mirror as they were expecting to receive a 60" mirror. The reason Perkins called upon an organization created to standardize weights and measures to create the mirror was the thought that once they understood the techniques involved, this information would be passed on to private companies. From then on, the U.S. would no longer depend on Europe for telescope mirrors. At the time it was built, the mirror, weighing almost 4,000 pounds was the largest telescope mirror ever built in the Western Hemisphere.

Due to issues with Ohio's poor and unpredictable weather, low altitude, and light pollution, the 69" scope was moved to Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Perkins Observatory replaced it with a 32" telescope which is currently in use. This was the largest telescope to ever be moved, before or since. That mirror was soon replaced by a 72" mirror. When COSI (the Center of Science and Industry) opened in Columbus, Ohio. They thought that the 69" mirror would make a nice exhibit. So again the mirror was moved back to Ohio. COSI decided to take it off display in the late 80's. Since they couldn't move it, they simply built a "closet" around the mirror. When COSI moved to a new location a few blocks away, Perkins Observatory saw and opportunity, and the mirror was moved back to Perkins Observatory in September of 1999, where it was restored and is currently on display. Information about Perkins Observatory, their public programs, and its history can be found at,, and Wikipedia

In addition to the main telescope, Perkins Observatory was also the site of "The Big Ear" radio telescope, which was used for SETI research and made famous through the "Wow!" signal that was received in 1977. The Big Ear, was torn down in 1998. The land on which the Big Ear was sitting was sold by Ohio Wesleyan to a private developer in 1983 who claimed their rights to develop the land. This land was used to expand a nearby golf course, and to build approximately 400 houses. More information on the Big Ear can be found at

As a side note, many famous Astronomers have visited Perkins. In 1932 publication of a small magazine about Astronomy was begun by the Director of Perkins. Known then as "The Telescope" it dealt mostly with research conducted at Perkins, but eventually expanded its coverage of topics. Later in 1941, it was combined with another magazine called "The Sky" to become the familiar Sky & Telescope Magazine which is still in print today.

Observatory Purpose: Research

Optical / Infrared Telescopes?: Yes

Radio Telescopes?: Yes

Solar Telescopes?: Yes

Open to the Public?: Yes

Public Viewing Allowed?: Yes

Active Observatory?: Active

Number of Telescopes or Antennas: 3 to 5

Site URL: [Web Link]

Year Dedicated or Opened: 1931

Is this a Club Observatory?: Not listed

Altitude (meters): Not Listed

Visit Instructions:
Note the time of day of your visit, and your own photo of your favorite part of the observatory. This might be the view from the observatory, picture of your favorite building or favorite exhibit. (Be mindful of flash photography rules!)

If you participated in an observing session, let everyone know what you saw!

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