Virtual Open House 2020


Every year in October, we throw our gates open and welcome the community to a fun-filled, Sun-filled day of learning about astronomy, engaging in space-themed crafts and activities, winning science prizes, and enjoying locally made ice cream and steel drum music. Unfortunately, that's just not possible this year. So instead we've created a way for you to safely replicate the experience from home. (You'll have to supply the music and ice cream, however.)  

In the tabs below you can: 

  • Sneak a peek at some seldom-seen nooks and crannies in our building, like our astronomical plate vault and sub-basement ruling engine
  • Meet some of our instrumentation specialists and learn how they use our Machine Shop to design experiments and drive new discoveries
  • Hear about astronomical discoveries that happened during the 1918 Flu pandemic
  • Tour Mount Wilson Observatory and Las Campanas Observatory, and learn about the Giant Magellan Telescope
  • Get instructions for fun at-home or classroom astronomy activities

You can also participate in daily #AskAnAstronomer polls on our Twitter feed and join us Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. Pacific for a stargazing party on our Zoom channel.

We look forward to a time when we can once again welcome you to our Pasadena campus. Until then, please enjoy our 2020 Virtual Open House! 


Every year, the Carnegie Observatories Library is one of the most popular stops at our Open House. Now you can experience its wonders without the crowds. Plus, our archivist, Kit Whitten, shares some astronomical plates showing the science that was being done by Observatories' astronomers during the 1918 Flu pandemic. 


Our Moon Globe:

Albert Einstein's Visit:

1918 Flu Plates:

One of the things that makes the Carnegie Observatories such an exceptional place to work is the on-site machine shop that allows astronomers, engineers, and other experts to build instruments that maximize the abilities of our telescopes to unlock the mysteries of the universe. Get to know two of our instrumentation postdoctoral fellows, who explain how Carnegie enables them to explore the cosmos. 


Meet Rosalie: 

Learn About Rosalie's Work: 

Meet Alicia: 

Learn About Alicia's Work: 

Even regular attendees of our annual Open House probably haven't seen our plate vault, home to the second largest collection of astronomical glass plates in the U.S., and they almost certainly haven't seen the subbasement where we used to manufacture our own diffraction gratings. Take a peek! 


Plate Vault Door and Spectra Room:

Plate Vault Direct Observations Room: 

Plate Vault Solar Room: 

Ruling Engine; 

Telescopes are central to what we do. Our founder, George Ellery Hale, built the 60-inch and 100-inch telescopes at Mt. Wilson Observatory, where Edwin Hubble discovered the universe. Now, our observational astronomers use the telescopes at our Las Campanas Observatory in Chile to make breakthrough discoveries about the cosmos. It is the home of the still-under-construction Giant Magellan Telescope, of which we are a founding partner. Learn more about all of these incredible facilities! 


Mt. Wilson Observatory: 

Las Campanas Observatory (English): 

Las Campanas Observatory (Español): 

Giant Magellan Telescope: 


Several of the fun space-themed activities you and your family may have enjoyed at our previous Open Houses can be done at home or in your virtual classroom. Just follow the instructions in the links below!

Make a Pocket Solar System

Build a Spectroscope

Galilean Cannon

Pictured above is the Galilean Canon in our machine shop during a previous open house. Here is a video of the cannon in action:

Throughout the week of our Virtual Open House, we asked our friends and fans on Twitter to vote on questions that they'd like our astronomers to answer. We posted videos for the winning questions right away, but now you can see both sets of answers!