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Ladd Observatory in Providence


I am very passionate about telescopes and astronomy. It has been a hobby of mine for many years -decades even and on my bucket list is to visit and see as many of them as possible, and to also look through as many of those fantastic telescopes as possible.

Ladd Observatory is a part of Brown University in Providence and they have a beautiful building devoted to the 12 inch refractor telescope it houses.

I also have a video of India on my youtube channel right here.




Let's first take a look at the telescope because that is the whole reason for the observatory! It is a gorgeous 12" refractor that was made by John Brashear. And it still works perfectly. It is very typical of those gorgeous telescoes that were made in that century, brass tubing, large f ratio and super solid mounting with heavily machined moving parts.

It seems to me that astronomy has changed quite a bit over the past century. I guess that is a silly thing to say but let me explain what I mean. Nowadays, for the most part astronomy is in the hands of the big outfits. This is because most of the advances and work that is done needs very big telescopes or very specialized telescopes. And those things are expensive. Could you buy a hubble like orbiting telescope? Nope, Me neither.

But, 100 years ago the newly emerging art of telescope making was still within reach of enterprising individuals. So there was a lot of backyard and basement telescope making going on. And it was possible to make something that could move the field of observation forward. Those were good times! Times where brash young telescope makers made their mark on things!

So this is where the Ladd observatory comes from -that golden age of developing astronomy and growing telescopes. To put it in perspective The ladd observatory was built 40 years before Pluto was discovered.

Okay, about the visit to the observatory

Your first steps into the ground floor of the observatory is greeted with a couple of rooms with cabinets that are made into light boxes. And they have a whole series of great photographic plates of various astronomical subjects.


Then you walk up the stairwell to the second floor where the telescope is housed.

This picture gives you a little bit of sense as to what the inside of the dome is like. It's a big telescope so the dome is roomy.

And everybody got to take turns and look through the telescope by climbing up on the ladder. We observed Jupiter and it looked great. The night sky was reasonable so the view was pretty good. All four of the Galilean moons were on display too.


The People

As is often the case the people are the most important part of any club, group, or organization. And the people here were terrific. I spoke with everybody and they were very helpful. Everybody was helpful and easy going. The observatory has a deck on the second floor so you can also go out on the deck where they had set up a couple more telescopes including a ten inch Meade catadioptric and a four inch Rich Field Telescope.


Some Closing Thoughts

To have a resource like a major university with a tremendous heirloom of a telescope is really something amazing.. But to have it open to the public one night a week is simply a gift to the community. They are open every tuesday night from 8-10 (weather dependant). So if you live in new england or are visiting somewhere around providence I recommend you check them out. Here is their website for more information Ladd Observatory

And, If you are interested in Telescopes and Astronomy you might want to check out my website devoted to the subject: The Telescope Nerd



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