Adler Planetarium gets a new telescope

The $100,000 telescope is the observatory’s first upgrade in 33 years.

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Crews install a new telescope at Adler Planetarium Tuesday morning. | Brian Rich, Chicago Sun-Times

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

A drone buzzed overhead. A video camera recorded the event from the tip of the crane’s ball and hook. And Michelle Nichols flitted, her twitchy finger poised over her own camera’s shutter button.

“Oh my goodness, I’ve been anxious for three months. There is only one chance to get this right,” said Nichols, Adler Planetarium’s director of public observing.

Nichols and a dozen or so other people in florescent green vests and hard hats gathered along a misty lakeshore Tuesday morning to watch a crane operator lower a brand-new telescope into the planetarium’s observatory, which has been empty since late October. The $100,000 telescope is the Doane Observatory’s first upgrade in 33 years, Adler officials say.

It took about 1 12 hours to lower about 1,000 pounds of hardware through the opening in the observatory ceiling.

“This is not exciting, and that’s the exact way I like my airline flights and it’s the way I like my telescope installation to go. It’s calm, and there is nothing going wrong,” Nichols said.

The new telescope, which is expected to collect about 44 percent more light than the previous one, is expected to be available for public use some time in the spring, Adler officials said.

The old telescope, installed in March 1987, remains in storage.

“We are working with a particular organization, which is considering our offer of a telescope,” Nichols said. “And they are working through whether they want to take it. ... This particular organization doesn’t currently have a building to put it in.”

Nichols, who will be the first to press her face against the new telescope’s eye piece, said her dream is to find Pluto in the night sky, something not seen through an Adler telescope in some 20 years, Nichols said.

“Pluto has gotten farther from the sun in the meantime, and that means it’s dimmer and harder to see,” she said.

Workers using a crane to install a new, more powerful telescope, at The Adler Planetarium’s Doane Observatory. Jan. 28, 2020.

Workers use a crane to install a new, more powerful telescope, at The Adler Planetarium’s Doane Observatory.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Workers using a crane to install a new, more powerful telescope, at The Adler Planetarium’s Doane Observatory. Jan. 28 2020.

The $100,000 telescope is the Doane Observatory’s first upgrade in 33 years.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

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