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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 research purposes, students, and the general public. 

Special Event - Transit of Mercury:


The Department of Physics and Astronomy will host a special viewing session for the Mercury transit today (Monday, November 11) from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm at the observatory. There will be some minor cloud coverage, but the transit should still be visible. The event is open to the public and all are welcome!

Starting at 7:35 am, Mercury will be aligned to block light from the Sun for the first time since 2016.  Over the next  five and a half hours, the tiny dot of Mercury's shadow will transit across the face of the Sun, exiting at 1:04 pm.  Come check out the transit through the solar telescopes!

Please note that we will not hold a weekly sky viewing on the evening of Monday, November 11. We will resume with our weekly evening viewings on Monday, Novemer 18 (weather-permitting).


Weekly Public Night Updates:


The observatory will be CLOSED this evening (Monday, November 4) due to heavy cloud coverage. We will make another attempt on Monday, November 18.

** Note that our viewing hours on Monday evenings will shift to 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm beginning Monday, October 21 due to Daylight Savings Time approaching in early November. **

Please visit our Facebook and Twitter accounts for Monday evening forecast updates. We will do our best to post status updates no later than 12:00 pm on Mondays. Thank you for your interest!
 

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 students and the public, for free, on Mondays between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 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.


Evening Tours

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. Contact us ahead of time to find out what objects will be visible to help plan your visit.

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.


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