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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Cincinnati Observatory Celebrates 175 Years

Fundraiser planned for November to commemorate milestone 

Submitted by Anna Hehman, Development Director of the Cincinnati Observatory Center

On November 9, 1843, with the laying of a cornerstone, the Cincinnati Observatory was established as the nation’s first public observatory. The story of how the Observatory came to be speaks to an exciting period of growth and prosperity in our city’s history.

“In July 1843, Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel, the founder of the Cincinnati Astronomical Society, traveled to Quincy, Massachusetts to deliver the Society’s resolution inviting former President John Quincy Adams to lay the cornerstone for the proposed Observatory on Mt. Ida, east of downtown,” shares John Ventre, Observatory historian. 

Ventre continues, “Adams replied, ‘Sir, if I were to follow the impulse of my present feelings, I would unhesitatingly answer, ‘Yes, I will go at the risk of my life,’ for God knows that if I could be spared to participate in so interesting a ceremony, one that I feared I should never witness, I would be willing to die the next day.’ My hopes would be more than realized, and the toil of twenty years fully repaid’.” 

Originally located at the top of what was then Mt. Ida, John Quincy Adams made an arduous three week trip to Cincinnati to speak at the dedication of his long dreamed of “Lighthouse of the Sky.” In honor of his visit, the area was renamed Mt. Adams. The project was one close to the former president’s heart, as Ventre notes. “While he was president in December 1825, Adams delivered his first annual message to Congress, proposing a national astronomical observatory be built. His attempt failed, principally because the States’ Rights movement at that time favored state rather than federal control.” 

The Cincinnati Observatory remained on Mt Adams only about 30 years then, due to smog from downtown’s factories and industry, it moved to a newly established suburban neighborhood with clearer skies. In honor of the Observatory looking out over the heavens, the new neighborhood was named Mt Lookout. Cincinnati’s favorite architect, Samuel Hannaford, who would later build Cincinnati’s City Hall and Music Hall, built the current Observatory building in 1873. The original cornerstone from the Mt Adams location was re-laid in the new building to commemorate the Observatory’s origins. To support research and increasing public programs, a second building with telescope was erected in 1904. 

Not only is the establishment of the Observatory an incredible story, but throughout its history, it has had its share of twists and turns.  In the 1990s the University of Cincinnati, which owns the Observatory property, considered selling the Observatory after it fell dormant as the encroaching city lights made research impossible. Ultimately, the university collaborated with a dedicated group of neighbors, preservationists and Observatory advocates to found an independent 501(c)3, the Cincinnati Observatory Center, writing the next chapter in the Observatory’s story: providing science education and history programs for the public and K-12 students throughout the Greater Cincinnati community.

Original Cincinnati Observatory Center 
Today the Observatory Center is a thriving cultural and educational icon serving over 35,000 people last year alone. In addition to the over 800 programs, classes and events held annually - not only at the gorgeous park-like campus but also at schools, libraries, community centers and parks. The Observatory Center is bustling days and evenings with walk-in visitors or field trip programs from students all over the Greater Cincinnati area – including an increasing number of underserved students. Last year, the number of students the Observatory engaged through its STEM programming topped 12,000, including over 4,000 underserved students.

Cincinnati Observatory Center today
“We have really become the go-to spot for astronomy education. Whether we host field trips during the daytime, or we lead classes at night, it’s such a joy to showcase our historic telescope,” explains Dean Regas, the Observatory’s Outreach Astronomer, who began there in 2000.  “And there is no better telescope, with so much history in the United States, for students of all ages to look through.”   
Led by a Board of Trustees comprised of neighbors, educators and business leaders, as well as a staff of six, there are also over 90 dedicated volunteers who regularly support Observatory events and programs.

Original cornerstone dated November 9, 1843
New to the Observatory Center’s board is Lauren Worley, former Press Secretary for NASA who currently serves as the Chief Communications Officer for Cincinnati Public Schools, a longtime Observatory education partner. "Cincinnati has been at the forefront of space exploration and scientific discovery since before we were even a city, and the Cincinnati Observatory is the epicenter of that work,” shares Worley.

John Ventre showing group the historic Clark telescope
To celebrate their upcoming milestone anniversary, the Observatory is fittingly throwing a party at the Monastery Event Center on November 8, 2018. The Event Center is built right next to the original site of the Observatory in Mt Adams and has incorporated this fact in their story as well. 

Of the event, Observatory Executive Director Craig Niemi says, “We’ll recognize the vision of the leaders and citizens of Cincinnati who 175 years ago sought to explore the unknown and further science education in our community. I’m proud and humbled that every day I can play a role in that heritage.”

Tickets for the event, which is open to the public, will be $75. Sponsors including the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Foundation, UBS, Bahl & Gaynor, Icon Solar, Xavier University and Roehr Insurance are supporting the one-time event, as well as The Observatory Center’s close partner the University of Cincinnati. 

For more information, contact Observatory Development Director Anna Hehman at 513-321-5186 or at 

Out-of-This-World Programming, Classes and Events at Cincinnati Observatory Center!

Cosmic Kids:  A Monthly Astronomy Club for Kids
Explore the cosmos during our new multi-disciplinary classes helping grades K-7 learn and discover topics in astronomy and investigate the wonders beyond our world. These classes are open to members and non-members. You may decide to take one class or the entire class series. You may also decide to stay with your child for the class or drop them off and pick them up after, parents will not be charged as participants. 
Upcoming dates and topics:
September 22:  Aliens
October 13:   Black Holes
November 10:  Constellations
December 8:  Crash Landing on the Moon
Grades K-3 meet from 9-10 a.m.
Grades 4-7 meet from 11 a.m.-noon
Member prices: $3/participant/class OR $10/participant/series 
Non-member prices: $10/participant/class OR $30/participant/series
Space is extremely limited.  Sign Up For Cosmic Kids Online or call 513-321-5816.

Classes: Astronomer Dean Regas leads these fun and laid-back classes for beginners and also is your guide to the stars and planets of the season, pointing them out with you in the real sky with the Observatory telescopes (weather permitting).
The Fall Sky: Wednesday September 19, 7-9 p.m.  Identify the stars and constellations of fall.
Hubble’s Greatest Hits: Wednesday, October 17, 7-9 p.m.  Explore the best images of the universe.
Moon Landing: Wednesday November 14, 7- 9 p.m.  What is it like to live on the Moon?  This is your survival guide.
Guide Stars: Wednesday December 12, 7-9 p.m.  Learn how to use star charts, astronomy apps and space software.
Cost per class:  $15 per person, $12 for Observatory members
Sign Up Online or Call 513-321-5186.

Special Events:  Have a favorite planet?  Looking for the coolest events coming up?  Astronomers always look to the future, and if you're a planner too, add these events on your calendar.  Call for details: 513-321-5186.

ScopeOut 2018:  Telescope Festival Saturday September 15, 6-10 p.m.
Want to see the coolest telescopes in the Tri-state?  Want to look through a telescope to see the Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars?  Join the members of the Cincinnati Observatory as we celebrate the telescope.  Dozens of astronomers will set up their telescopes and share their knowledge, passion, expertise between 6-8 p.m.  Then as darkness falls, from 8-10 p.m. they will share views through their own telescopes (weather permitting).  Plus the massive Cincinnati Observatory telescopes will be in operation to view the planets up close.  
We will also have activities for students of all ages, meteorites on display, and new and used telescopes for sale. 
Admission is $5/person, Free for Observatory members
No reservations needed.  Great for all ages.
For more info please visit:  or call 513-321-5186.
Great Outdoor Weekend:  September 29
175th Anniversary Celebration:  November 8
Luminaria Annual Holiday Event:  December 9

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