Jacobsen Observatory



The Theodor Jacobsen Observatory is the second-oldest structure on the campus. Built in 1895, the Observatory with its 125-year old, 6-inch refracting telescope is still offering celestial views of the wonders of the Universe. Here you will find information on opened nights, making reservations, a history of the telescope, a history of astronomy at the UW, and even an operating manual for the telescope. Come join us in a tour; there is no charge to learn about and view the night sky!

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TJO Evening Public Talks

The majority of the talks of the open house season are given by undergraduates at the University of Washington, individuals who are either majoring in physics and astronomy or are in other majors but really enthusiastic about astronomy. The level of the talks varies with the topic. Some are geared more to the younger visitors; most are geared for high school level. Please come and lend your support. By being in the audience you will be taking part in the educational program at the UW.

The talks on a given evening start approximately 5 minutes after opening and take place in the classroom that adjoins the Observatory. If the sky is clear enough, the dome will be open for viewing celestial objects through the ancient telescope. Reservations are strongly recommended for the talks, and visitors with reservations have priority viewing in the dome after the talks finish; no reservations are needed to tour the Observatory and take part in the exhibits, activities, and viewing through telescopes available on the Observatory grounds.

2018 Observing Season and Open Houses at Jacobsen Observatory
Month 1st Weds 3rd Weds Hours
April 4 18 8 – 10 pm
May 2 16 9 – 11 pm
June 6 20 9 – 11 pm
July 4 – Closed 18 9 – 11 pm
August 1 15 9 – 11 pm
September 5 19 8 – 10 pm

Talks Schedule

The topics and abstracts for the 2018 observing season are listed below. Thank you for all of your interest this past season, and we look forward to another successful series of undergraduate talks and observing of celestial objects.  These talks generally last between 20 and 30 minutes, giving us plenty of time to view celestial objects if the night skies are at all clear.


The schedule of topics for the talks given in the classroom at the start of each open-house evening will be posted in early April.  Our outreach-in-astronomy course runs Spring Quarters, and we need to wait until a few weeks have passed so that the students in that class have a chance to prepare their talks.  Please check back here at that time.  Thank you!


We apologize for not being able to accommodate everyone who wants to visit the Observatory and take part in the talks given by UW undergraduates. The classroom holds only 45 people; the dome that houses the 1892 refracting telescope can have a maximum of 12 adults at a time. Visits to the dome and discussions with Seattle Astronomical Society members last about 10-15 minutes. “Tickets” (which are free) to visit the dome are distributed in the order in which reservations for the talks are received.

Seattle Astronomical Society members operate the ancient refracting telescope in the dome and can find fascinating treasures of the night sky. Their members are an endless source of information and enthusiasm about astronomy.


Reservations are strongly recommended for the talks as the TJO classroom holds only 45 people. Those with reservations have priority viewing for the dome.  While all are welcome to visit without reservations, please note that only the activities and the smaller telescopes set up in the Observatory grounds will be available. Usually for the July through September open houses, those without reservations do not get to visit the dome until close to closing time.

We are currently taking reservations through email only. Please email Dr. Ana Larson <<anamunn@uw.edu>>, Observatory Director, with the date you would like to attend and how many people will be joining you.

Group & School Reservations

We are especially glad to welcome student class and home-schooling groups to our observatory and can work with the teachers on topics that they would like presented. We also have a wide variety of activities and labs that we could include in the evening’s program. Please email Dr. Ana Larson, Observatory Director, with the date you would like to attend, the size of your group, and any further questions you may have.


We are located at the north end of the University of Washington campus, just east of the Burke Museum, at the intersection of NE 45th Street and Memorial Way (17th Avenue NE). If you are coming from:

  • Eastside: Take 520 W to Montlake Exit. Left at 2nd light (on to Pacific). Come to 15th Avenue NE and make a right. The Physics/Astronomy building is on the corner, but this is NOT where you want to go. Continue up 15th Avenue NE until NE 45th Street. Take a right and continue east. You will see the Burke Museum on your right. Take a right at the next intersection. You will be going south on Memorial Way. If the parking gates are open (Gate 2), you will need to stop and get a permit. Lots N1 and N5 are the closest to the Observatory.
  • North or South: I-5 to NE 45th Street exit (University of Washington). Take NE 45th Street East until you see the Burke Museum on your right. Take a right at the next intersection. You will be going south on Memorial Way. If the parking gates are open (Gate 2), you will need to stop and get a permit. Lots N1 and N5 are the closest to the Observatory.


The University of Washington has lots of information on parking on campus for school and other bus transportation. Please visit the UW Parking Services web site for complete instructions and contact/permit information. If you are coming by car or car pool and it is earlier than 9 pm, then you will need to check in with the gate keepers at the north entrance (Gate 2) to the U of W campus for a permit and directions.

Theodor Jacobsen Observatory Newsletter

The Theodor Jacobsen Observatory Newsletter comes out roughly once per year and contains articles written by undergraduates at the University of Washington.

Spring-Summer 2017

Table of Contents – Fall 2017 Newsletter

Winter-Spring 2016
Winter-Spring 2015
Winter-Spring 2014:
Summer-Fall 2013:

Support the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory

If you would like to make a donation that will go directly towards supporting our educational public outreach efforts at the Observatory, please review the funding options below and visit our UW donations website to support today!

Friends of the Campus Observatory Fund

The fund was originally created to support maintenance and upkeep of the campus observatory; however, currently almost all of the funds go towards supporting our public open houses and programs.

Friends of Astronomy Fund

A general, unrestricted fund, and the most valuable of all funds, that can be used by the Astronomy Department for any programmatic purpose or to seize an unexpected opportunity.

TJO preliminary drafts for future exhibits, posters, displays:

These drafts were part of a proposal by “GROUP 4 Museology Graduate Students, Spring 2011,” entitled Eyes to the Skies: An exhibit proposal for the UW Astronomy Department (Chris Cadenhead | Megan Lamboley | Brittin Romero | Sarra Scherb | Hari Wibowo June 6, 2011)