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Department of Physics and Astronomy


Melton Observatory

Located on the Horseshoe of the USC Columbia Campus, the Melton Memorial Observatory contains a 16-inch Cassegrain telescope that provides a stunning view of the night sky for both research purposes and the general public. 

History

The Melton Observatory is named for Dr. William Davis Melton, our university's president in the 1920s. Following his death in 1926, friend and alumnus, Edwin Seibels, donated $15,000 to build an observatory in Dr. Melton's name.

 

Visit

Our observatory is open to the public, for free, on Mondays between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. All age groups are welcome, but we ask that young children are kept under close supervision. Our equipment is sensitive and can be damaged easily. 

 

Handicap Accessibility 

The lower level of our observatory is wheelchair accessible. Unfortunately, the upstairs and the restroom on the main level are not. We have installed a large monitor in the hallway of the main level so you can still enjoy views from the telescope even if you're not able to climb the stairs.

 

Schedule a Tour

Melton Observatory is a popular destination for scouts, school field trips, church groups, and more. Our free tours last about an hour and are generally appropriate for grades 3 and up, but may be more impactful for older students with a stronger science background. If you'd like to schedule a tour, send us an email with

  • name
  • group name
  • group size
  • dates you'd like to visit
Day Trip

During a day trip, your group will be given a tour of the building, dome and telescopes, and your group will observe the Sun through an appropriately filtered telescope. Solar properties and characteristics will be discussed during observations.

These tours can be scheduled during daylight hours any weekday. These times may be limited during the school year as several student classes are held each week at the observatory during the day.

If cloudy weather is in the forecast for the day of your visit, we will reschedule your visit for another day. Please have a secondary date available when setting up your tour as this makes it easier to reschedule in the event of poor weather conditions.

Night Trip

During a night tour, your group will be given a tour of the building, dome and telescopes, and will observe a variety of objects such as the Moon, planets, stars, star clusters, nebulae, galaxies, and any other interesting objects currently in the sky depending on seeing conditions. Objects types, formation, size, distance, etc. are discussed. Call us ahead of time to find out what objects will be visible to help plan your visit.

Tours can begin as early as 30 minutes after sunset. During the school year touring times may be limited because student classes are held at the observatory four to five nights per week. During that time you're welcome to bring your group to public observing hours, we just ask you let us know in advance. 

If cloudy weather is in the forecast for the day of your visit, we will reschedule your visit for another day. Please have a secondary date available when setting up your tour as this makes it easier to reschedule in the event of poor weather conditions.

It may also be possible for members of the observatory staff to come to your school or function to do daytime and nighttime observations. These programs are also free, but availability may be significantly limited while USC classes are in session.