The Sky's the Limit!

We’re thrilled to welcome you to the Detroit Observatory. Come see the stars and explore the past through tours, observing, presentations, talks, and more!

All events are free.

The Observatory is open for walk-in visits Fridays from 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm.

Other Observatory events require advance registration.  Please see our calendar below to register and obtain a ticket for admission.

 

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4/8/22 Detroit Observatory ReOpening event.

Student docent showing telescope to young girl and her parents
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Observing
the Heavens,
Exploring
the Past

Come see the sky with us.
Journey back in time with us.

Visitors have opportunities to observe the sky using Observatory telescopes. Inside the dome, the Fitz telescope provides wonderful views of the moon, planets, and stars. See Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s moons, and the light from stars that have traveled for hundreds of years or longer.And we now offer daytime observing of the Sun, using appropriate safety precautions.

Every look through the telescope is also a look into the past.  And join us also to explore a human past — the past of the University of Michigan and its place in history. Lectures, cultural events, exhibits, and tours all have a home at the Observatory.

Observing experiences will be accompanied by explanatory presentations and exhibits and will be led by trained astronomers.

Most events require advance registration.  See below.

Calendar of Events

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Wolverine Writers: History and Storytelling Across Campus and through the Years

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Astronomy Night Open House

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Fauth Chronograph Detail - cylinder and pen
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Fauth & Co. Chronograph, used in conjunction with the Meridian Circle Telescope and the Tiede sidereal clock to set time

Observatory Events

Entry to the Observatory requires a printed or digital ticket as acquired through the registration process.

Visiting

Open Hours

Entry to the Observatory on Fridays, noon to 5:00 pm, is free and on a walk-in basis.  Our docents and staff will be happy to guide you through the Observatory’s attractions.

Noon to 2:30 pm: we offer historical tours of the building and astronomical tours of the telescopes, with solar observing if weather permits.

2:30 pm to 5:30 pm: we offer historical walking tours of campus, as described below, and astronomical tours of the telescopes, with solar observing if weather permits.

Scheduled Events

Entry to the Observatory for other scheduled events — astronomical, historical, and cultural — requires a printed or digital ticket, which can be acquired through advance registration.  All events are free.

The reasons for advance registration are our desire to ensure a continuing safe environment as we begin to emerge, we hope, from the pandemic; our wish to foster a more intimate, rich experience for visitors; and our need to gauge attendance to our current level of staffing and operations.

Openings are limited and will depend on the nature of the event, so please book your visit well in advance. The Observatory offers talks, presentations, observing — both nighttime and daytime — and tours. Check the calendar below for scheduled events, or click on the buttons below the calendar to request a visit.

Safety Protocols, Do’s and Don’ts, FAQs

And please check here for things to take into account when visiting: safety protocols, do’s and don’ts, what to wear, what you can expect, including our COVID policy.  At this time, given tight spaces in the building and the CDC rating of Washtenaw County as MEDIUM community transmission, masks continue to be required at the Observatory.

 

See the Heavens!

Explore the heavens during one of our astronomy sessions. Sessions involve presentations on a range of fascinating astronomical phenomena, instruction on the telescopes, and, when weather permits, observing with our beautiful historic Fitz telescope as well as modern supplemental telescopes. We offer both nighttime observing and daytime observing of the Sun (with all necessary safety precautions).  Please note: astronomy events at the Observatory take place even if the weather does not permit observing.  We strive to always have interesting things for you to do.

Take a Tour

The Detroit Observatory

This tour covers both the original building and the addition.  Learn about the telescopes, see why the observatory was constructed the way it was, hear about the astronomers who walked its floors in the 19th century — and the discoveries they made — and understand what we hoped to gain by construction of the addition.

U-M History Walking Tours

Our docents will be excited to lead you on one of the following walking tours of campus, Fridays beginning at 2:30 pm.  We also offer group tours by request, for groups of 5 or more.  Please make a request through the form on the Contact page.

The Original 40 Acres

Join us for a 1.5-hour walking tour covering highlights of the first 70 years of U-M history. This tour will explore questions such as: What do the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Badawademi have to do with the founding of the University? How did the Diag change from pasture to the tree-covered expanse it is today? Before the President’s House was the President’s House, what was it? Why is a plaque commemorating the admission of women located in Angell Hall?

Spirits of Michigan’s Past: A Walking Tour of Forest Hill Cemetery

Numerous figures from U-M’s history — from the time of the University’s relocation to Ann Arbor in the 1830s to the recent past — are interred in Forest Hill Cemetery, located near the Observatory.  Join us for a 1.5-hour walking tour through Forest Hill and admire the beauty of this mid-19th century rural cemetery.  Learn about such individuals as football player George Jewett, U-M’s first African American player; longtime U-M president James B. Angell; famed conductor Eva Jessye; the Detroit Observatory’s own James Craig Watson; and many more.  We look forward to sharing university history with you at this unique and scenic setting. Please be advised that the tour involves steep hills and potentially walking through grass, both of which could make this walking tour a challenge for some.

Engineering Breakthroughs (starting in 2023)

This one-hour tour of North Campus examines breakthrough moments in U-M science and engineering. This tour will explore questions such as: What is U-M’s connection to the creation of information theory, which made modern information technology possible? What was the blue glow emanating from a pool in the Phoenix Memorial Laboratory and why was it there? Why is the name DeVolson Wood important in the history of the University?

View Events

Exhibits

  • Visit the Exhibit

    What Time Is It? How “Observatory Time” Changed the City of Detroit and Beyond

    Trains crashing. People dying. Businesses struggling. The perils of keeping incorrect time in Detroit were significant, and the city desperately needed a solution. A visionary academic, a businessman, and new technology to plot the stars would converge at the Observatory, changing Detroit—and the campus—forever.

    Visit the Exhibit
  • Visit the Exhibit
    Astronomer Hazel Losh at telescope eyepiece

    Aiming for the Stars: Early Women Astronomers and the Detroit Observatory

    This online exhibition showcases the development and impact of astronomy for women at the University of Michigan. Created in collaboration with the Bentley Historical Library and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), this exhibition gives a unique look into the lives of early women astronomy students at the Detroit Observatory and the impact of those students as they pursued their professional careers.

    Visit the Exhibit

Getting to the Observatory

The U-M Detroit Observatory is located at 1398 E. Ann Street (at the corner of Ann and Observatory Streets) in Ann Arbor, MI. Please use the entrance to the addition on Observatory Street; the old entrance facing Ann Street is no longer used for entry.

Our Hours:

Fridays, noon to 5:00 pm
Other times with advance registration.
Please check our calendar.

Parking

Daytime weekdays: Parking is very limited around the Observatory during the daytime, Monday through Friday. There is metered parking along Ann Street and Observatory Street. The University’s Palmer Drive Parking Structure, off Washtenaw by Palmer Commons, offers paid visitor parking during the daytime ($1.80/hour; operating hours are 8:00am to 10:00pm, Mon-Sat). Visitors may also choose to use Ann Arbor city lots or other U-M visitor lots farther away and walk or bus to the Observatory.

Evenings and weekends: Some area lots and structures are open evenings and weekends, and permit parking is not enforced.   The Ann Street Parking Structure (M86), the Catherine Street Structure (M5), the Glen Street Structure (M61), and the School of Public Health II Lot are usually open after 6:00 pm Mon-Fri and on weekends.

Parking Information

Accessibility

The Detroit Observatory addition and the main floor of the Detroit Observatory building are fully handicapped accessible, but the dome is not, meaning that visitors with mobility issues will not have direct access to the Fitz telescope. Many events will, however, give visitors indirect access to the telescope via video stream from the dome to the other levels of the Observatory. Visitors with accessibility concerns are advised to check the schedule for those events that will include video streaming.