Jacobsen Observatory

We regret that open houses at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory are suspended until all classes are being held in their regular classrooms and our undergraduate volunteers are back on campus.  We will start to issue tickets of admission at that time, which we all hope will be soon.  In the meantime please see “http://www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2020.html” for upcoming astronomical events that you can enjoy on your own.

Our best wishes for good health go out to you and your friends and families.

From all of our volunteers.



The Theodor Jacobsen Observatory is the second-oldest structure on the campus. Built in 1895, the Observatory with its 126-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!

Want to subscribe to the Friends of the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory email list? Click on the button below.

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. However, several of our talks are also given by the talented graduate students and faculty of the UW Astronomy Department. Talks are geared towards the general public with no prior knowledge of astronomy necessary, and we always do our best to make the talks child-friendly. 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, and additional telescopes will be set up outside.

Reservations are necessary for the talks and viewing the dome telescope after the talks finish. No reservations are needed to tour the rest of the Observatory and take part in the exhibits, activities, and viewing through outdoor telescopes available on the Observatory grounds.

2020 Observing Season and Open Houses at Jacobsen Observatory
Month 1st Tues 3rd Tues Hours
April 7 21 8 – 10 pm
May 5 19 9 – 11 pm
June 2 16 9 – 11 pm
July 7 21 9 – 11 pm
August 4 18 9 – 11 pm
September 1 15 8 – 10 pm

Talks Schedule

The topics and abstracts for the 2019 observing season are listed below. These talks are 20-25 minutes each with time for questions afterwards, giving us plenty of time to view celestial objects if the night skies are at all clear.

Please note – reservations include spots for BOTH talks in one night.

April 7


April 21


May 5

Talk 1: Steven Bet

Inflation: Solving Problems with the Big Bang Theory

May 19

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, graduates, and faculty. The classroom holds only 45 people; the dome that houses the 1892 refracting telescope can have a maximum of 15 people 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 during the start of each open house.

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 required for the talks as the TJO classroom holds only 45 people. Those with reservations also get spots for viewing 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 to those without reservations.

We are currently taking reservations through email only: tjores@uw.edu  Be sure to include the date you would like to attend, the name for your reservation, and how many people will be joining you. Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate visits outside of the regular nights during our observing season, April through September. No reservations are possible for October through March.

Special Group & School Reservations

We are especially glad to welcome adult recreation groups, groups of students with special needs, K-12 classes, and home-schooling groups (and more) to the Observatory.  We can work with the supervisors/leaders/teachers on topics that they would like presented. We also have a wide variety of activities that we could include in the evening’s program. We are currently taking reservations through email only: tjores@uw.edu

Be sure to include the date you would like to attend and how many people will be joining you. The maximum number of visitors in the group or class is 45. If there are any special arrangements needed, also include that in your email. PLEASE NOTE: these visits are limited and dependent on volunteer availability.


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 2020
Spring-Summer 2019
Spring-Summer 2018 
Spring-Summer 2017
Winter-Spring 2016
Winter-Spring 2015
Winter-Spring 2014
Summer-Fall 2013

Support the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory

If you would like to make a gift that will go directly towards enriching our educational public outreach efforts at the Observatory, visit the direct link  https://www.washington.edu/giving/make-a-gift/?source_typ=3&source=FROBSV.  Thank you for your support!

Friends of the Campus Observatory Fund

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