Do you feel a sense of wonder when you look up at the night sky? As stars look down on us from millions of light years away, as the moon keeps its steady vigilance every month, as satellites graze through the upper levels of our atmosphere, do you ever consider the relativity of your own size and significance? Do you wonder about the paradox of seeing worlds and moons and stars that we will never visit?
Only twenty-four people have reached what is defined as “beyond low earth orbit” – the NASA astronauts of the Apollo missions. All other human space travel has been contained to low earth orbit. For most of us, however, we will hardly reach higher than a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet on a passenger jet.
If you are interested in exploring the night sky from the safety of solid ground, visiting an astronomical observatory is an excellent way to expand your universe. See your favorite constellations, Saturn’s rings, or the asteroid belt through high-powered telescopes. Experienced and amateur astronomers often host stargazing parties and can tour you through the wonders of the cosmos.
Here is a list of eight astronomical observatories within a three hour drive of Chicago. Each one welcomes the public.
1. Astronomical Observatory at Wheaton College
2. Davis Hall Observatory at Northern Illinois University
3. Dearborn Observatory at Northwestern University
4. Doane Observatory at The Adler Planetarium
5. Glen D. Riley Observatory & DuPage Valley Observatory of the Naperville Astronomical Association
6. Karl G. Henize Observatory at Harper College
7. The University of Illinois Observatory at U of I Urbana
8. Yerkes Observatory in Association with The University of Chicago