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The UW-Madison Astronomy Department offers free public observing at Washburn Observatory every 1-2 weeks throughout the year. The Open House sessions are hosted by UW astronomy graduate students. The public viewing sessions are informal, so there is no lecture or tour. The dome is open to the outside air so dress appropriately. Food and drinks, as well as flash photography are not allowed in the observatory. The status of the upcoming Washburn Observatory Open House is displayed in the Washburn Twitter Feed, which is usually updated approximately 30 minutes before the scheduled start time of the session.
Hours of Operation
In general, the open house sessions are scheduled according to the following rules: January: 7:30-9:30 PM, 3rd Wednesday, February to March: 7:30-9:30 PM, 1st and 3rd Wednesdays, April and May: 9:00-11:00 PM, 1st and 3rd Wednesdays, June to August: 9:00-11:00 PM, every Wednesday, September and October: 9:00-11:00 PM, 1st and 3rd Wednesdays, November and December, 7:30-9:30 PM, 1st and 3rd Wednesdays. The observatory is closed on July 4th. Please keep in mind that the sky needs to be mostly clear for observing to take place. However, this is not the only restriction. Other factors including subzero temperatures or high humidity could prompt the observer to cancel or delay observing. As these conditions are frequently unpredictable, the host will decide when to close the observatory based on weather and interest.