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Observatory Tour

The Maynard F. Jordan Observatory was originally built on the site where the Fogler Library currently resides. It was moved to its current location in the summer of 1933, next to the Memorial Union. Partly because of its location on the UMaine campus, the Jordan Observatory often encounters lighting problems; the University operates flood lights at night along sidewalks and streets for the safety of pedestrians. These flood lights can wreak havoc on observing, especially for objects near the horizon. The easiest way to get to the Jordan Observatory is to park either in the MCA lot or the MaineBound sports center lot, and walk to the Observatory on foot. It rests just outside the south entrance to the Memorial Union, next to Smith Hall.

The observatory is by no means a large building, and can only accommodate a set number of people at a time. The central feature, an 8-inch Alvan Clark refractor telescope, takes up much of the domed interior of the observatory. Due to the delicacy of the instruments housed in the observatory, the building is neither heated nor air conditioned, and visitors are encouraged to dress warmly if they visit in the winter months. The observatory is used actively by students of the department of physics and astronomy as well as for research purposes by members of the staff.

Student volunteers operate the observatory when it is opened for public viewing. Visitors can assemble inside the dome, and often student volunteers will be on hand to center the telescope on specific objects by request. These viewing sessions are very dependant on the weather, which changes frequently and quickly. Before making the trip to the observatory, always call the weather hotline at (207)581-1348 to see what current viewing conditions are.

The telescope itself has been modified with the addition of a small refractor on the side of the main telescope. This telescope is a Mogey refractor. A third, much smaller telescope, is used as a ‘finder scope’ to point the main telescope towards objects of interest. The entire telescope is outfitted with a clock drive, which rotates the telescope slowly over time, to account for the effect of the rotation of the Earth. This keeps the telescope sighted at the same object in the sky at all times.

The Maynard F. Jordan Observatory, 1999


The observatory from the rear


The observatory telescope was custom built for the University by Alvan C. Clark and Sons


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Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium, 5781 Wingate Hall, Orono, ME 04469-5781
Phone: (207) 581-1341