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Chabot and the Amateur Community

Celeste Burrows

The original Chabot Observatory. Photo courtesy of Judyth Collin and the Chabot Observatory.


Chabot offers a valuable free service to amateurs and to the general public, and that is year-round observing every Friday and Saturday night through Chabot’s three large telescopes as well as through volunteer telescopes out on the observing deck. Installation of a research grade solar telescope is in our future and eventually likely a radio dish also.

Amateurs are the operators for Chabot’s telescopes in our evening public programs; they also conduct public observing of the sun, moon, or Venus during most weekend days. Amateur volunteers also do most of the equipment maintenance.

Members of Chabot or of the Eastbay Astronomical Society have additional observing opportunities, including private viewing nights. EAS volunteers may be trained to operate the observatory telescopes for the public or for their own use on designated nights. Several amateur observing projects are going on now. The exoplanet group uses Chabot’s telescopes to track HD209458 and eight transit candidates, in conjunction with Lick and UCB. An astrophotography group uses Chabot’s telescopes and their own to learn and practice astrophotography. Their photos appear on EAS’ website and are displayed inside the domes.

Volunteers have additional access to Chabot’s programs, including training on telescopes (either the observatory’s or other amateur scopes) astronomy and observing workshops and speakers, and other events at the Center. Commitment for volunteers is 8 hours per month at the tasks of their choosing.

Observing also takes place following the monthly EAS meeting at Chabot. Currently we meet monthly on the second Saturday but may switch some meetings to Sundays and this will permit more private telescope time after the meeting. Family observing time may be offered before those meetings during standard time months.

Chabot proudly hosts the telescope makers workshop which has served the local community for more than 70 years. This workshop, offered free Friday nights year round, supports amateurs and provides local youth with an entrée into astronomy as well as a lifelong avocation.

An active teen program also supports the development of local youth. Here teens get ongoing training in science, astronomy, telescope operation, and personal skills, and use these to work with our public at the Center and through outreach to a variety of schools and neighborhood centers during the year.

Observing continues inside with the Zeiss planetarium, the best dark sky within a day’s trip. Natural dark skies are shown to the public, perhaps the first that they’ve seen, on Saturday nights and are used for scouts’ badge workshops and our occasional introductory astronomy classes. Bring your binoculars when you come, for 18 Messier objects can be found in this indoor sky.

The new full-dome digital projection system permits trips to anywhere in the universe, on Friday nights, using real data from the current galaxy surveys and real images from Solar System missions.

Weekdays the next generation of amateur and professional astronomers is being trained on their school field trips to Chabot. Hundreds of children each day visit the telescopes and other exhibits, see space shows and take workshops using materials such as those developed by Project and Family Astro or the Night Sky Network. Teachers are trained on content and hands-on activities in summer workshops.

Chabot’s 123-year commitment as a free public observatory is maintained in part through the active involvement of amateurs, in operating our telescopes and in serving on boards and committees. If there are ways we can better serve the amateur community do not hesitate to write and suggest them.

Celeste Burrows is the astronomy instructor for Chabot and specializes in teaching the student and teacher workshops. She operates her own telescopes and Chabot’s in her spare time. She is also on the board of EAS.


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