Public Eclipse Viewing at the Gettysburg College Observatory

2012 Transit of Venus at Gettysburg College Observatory

The Gettysburg College Observatory will be hosting a public observing event for the August 21, 2017, eclipse of the sun, weather permitting. Your hosts are Dr. Jacquelynne Milingo and Dr. Craig Foltz. They plan to set up equipment to safely observe this event. They will have a limited number of solar filter glasses for you to use. Some local retailers (e.g., Lowes in Waynesboro) are also selling them, so you may want to bring your own.

Here are the key details for eclipse day:

WHAT: Public Observing of the August 21, 2017 eclipse of the sun. This
website will get you started in understanding this event. NOTE: the eclipse is paritial, not total, from Gettysburg. This post will give you an idea of what to expect locally.

WHEN: August 21, 1:00-4:00 PM. (Eclipse maximum is 2:41.)
The event will be held weather permitting. If it looks like there will be a chance of viewing the sun, we will be there to at least try. In the event of overcast skies with no breaks showing in satellite photos, we will not hold it.

WHERE: Concrete pad outside the Gettysburg College Observatory.

The Observatory is located near the West Fields on the edge of campus. To get to the there, walk (do not drive) down the gravel road past the West Building (home of The Attic) toward the domed building. Only observatory staff are permitted to park at the observatory itself, so please allow time to park on campus and walk. There are no restrooms at the observatory, though there is usually a portable within walking distance. This map  shows the location of the observatory:

Special Summer Show: “Eclipse Across America”

Sunday, August 13, 2:30 and 4:00 PM
Monday, August 14, 12:00 Noon
At the Hatter Planetarium

This year we are ending our summer hiatus early to help you prepare for the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 with a viewing of “Eclipse Across America.” This show will detail the lore and mechanics of eclipses and give you a big picture view of the the way this eclipse will unfold across the contininent. We will follow the show with a live presentation on the local circumstances of the event and ways to view it. We’ll finish up with some Q & A. Note: the path of totality does not enter Pennsylvania. Weather permitting, Gettysburgians will witness a partial eclipse, with about 80% of the sun covered by the moon.

Total show time is about 40 minutes. The show is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-seated basis. Doors close when the show begins.

“Eclipse Across America” was created by Dan Zielinski of Jenks Planetarium (Oklahoma) and Dr. Todd Young of Fred G. Dale Planetarium (Nebraska) and distributed to Spitz SciDome planetariums free of charge.

Field Trip Request Form Closed for the Year

A local elementary school group.

Thanks to all the school and community groups who booked shows during our first year in our newly renovated planetarium. We truly enjoyed seeing every one of your smiling faces and answering your awesome, and often surprising, questions. We are now sliding inevitibly toward the end of classes and exam week, and our schedule for the remainder of the academic year is full. Therefore we have closed our online request form for the summer. We’ll open it back up in mid-August. If you are a teacher or group leader, here are few things to keep in mind when thinking about shows for the 2017-18 academic year:

  • Our shows are all free!
  • Reserve as early as you can; spring tends to fill up quickly, and our “season” ends in early May. With a returning experienced student presenter, we can start doing shows in September this year.
  • Our window for doing shows during weekday school hours will once again be Thursdays. Evenings and weekends are somewhat more flexible, depending on other demands on the space.
  • The capacity of the theater is 40 in seats or ~80 on the floor.
  • Outreach is an important mission of Gettysburg College’s planetarium, but it is not the primary one. Please be aware that you’re entering a working college environment, probably with classes in session in the building, and also that none of the staff works full-time on the planetarium
  • It’s AMAZING!

Constellations across the Cultures

Drawing by Francesca Costa, ’19

Shows Sunday, April 23
3:00 PM and 4:00 PM

You might look into the night sky and see a hunter, a bear, or a harp. But what about a drinking gourd, fish trap, or meat ant?  We’ll use the full-dome, immersive environment of the planetarium to explore what constellations are, the history of our familiar set, and how the same groups of stars have been imagined by different cultures at different times. With insights from Gettysburg College faculty. Written and produced by Gettysburg College students and staff. Running time? We don’t know yet! Probably about 40 minutes.

The Hatter Planetarium is located on the first floor of Masters Hall. The show is free and the public is welcome. First-come, first-seated; the doors close when the show begins.

Experience the “Hot and Energetic Universe”: Sunday 3/26

This Sunday, March 26, showing at 3:00 and 4:00 PM, the Hatter Planetarium will present “The Hot and Energetic Universe,” a 2016 full-dome documentary produced by the Integrated Activities in the High-Energy Astrophysics Domain. Trailer below! It will be preceded by a live planetarium sky tour presented by Hatter Planetarium staff. The show is free and the public is welcome. First-come, first-seated; the doors close when the show begins.


The Peril of Hyped Astro Headlines

I love the night sky, especially what’s visible with the unaided eye, and I love sharing that enthusisasm, whether it’s behind the controls of the Hatter Planetarium or way back in my days as a summer camp naturalist. But we suffer from swarms of overhyped headlines about sky sights. I am not talking about the outright social media fakes (“Mars will be as big as the moon,” etc.), but instead substantially correct information that may earn clicks but inevitably disappoints under the real sky.

Here’s one from this week, from a well-regarded media source: “A full moon, lunar eclipse and comet all in one night?” That sounds flippin’ amazing!! So let’s break it down:

Full moon and lunar eclipse. As you may know, this is no coincidence. A lunar eclipse can only occur at the full moon, just as a solar eclipse can only occur at the phase of new moon. That’s how the geometry works. Even reading the full text of the particular article above does not reveal that fact.

What kind of eclipse? This one is penumbral, meaning that the moon only enters the earth’s outer shadow. At no time is the sun completely blocked out from the moon’s point of view. Observant people will see a dimming on one side of the moon. Read a quality article here. If that’s what you expect, you’ll be happy you looked. Next total eclipse of the moon completely visible from Gettysburg? January 21, 2019.

Comet 45P. At seventh magnitude, it’s not visible to the unaided eye. In binoculars, it will look like a faint, green smudge, assuming you know exactly where to point the binocs. And as the Sky and Telescope article in that link makes clear, it is not a very easy object, and the light from the afforementioned moon will make matters worse.  The good news is it’s not a one-night proposition. So if you’re up for the callenge, here’s that link again. But the bottom line is it’s something hard to see, not a “grab the kids” moment.


Accepting Field Trip Requests

After a semester of learning the ropes on our new system, we are happy to continue our practice of offerering free field trips to school and community groups on an as-available basis. Just fill out the form here to get the process started.

Due to the fact that the planetarium is now a working classroom, school-day visits will be limited to Thursdays. Evenings and weekends are somewhat more flexible. Our season ends in May, so we look forward to hearing from you soon!

Spring 2017 Schedule of Public Shows

Happy New Year! Below is our schedule of free, public shows for the spring academic semster. As regulars know, the “Sky this Month” shows are live planetarium talks presented by our director. They include a tour of the current night sky and discussion of recent astronomy news and related concepts. The other shows are recorded full-dome presentations from top producers of planetarium media. (Except the April 23rd show – we’ll be producing that one ourselves. Stay tuned.) These recorded shows will be preceded by a brief live tour of the current night sky via our Spitz SciDome projector. All the shows will last approximately 40 minutes. The Hatter Planetarium is located on the first floor of Masters Hall on the Gettysburg College campus. First-come, first-seated. The doors close when the show begins.

You can also see an updating calendar of our upcoming events on our web site.

Hatter Planetarium Schedule

Spring 2017

Sunday, January 29

  • The Sky this Month
    • 3:00 PM
    • 4:00 PM

Sunday, February  12

Sunday, March 5

  • The Sky this Month
    • 3:00 PM
    • 4:00 PM

Sunday, March 26

Sunday, April 2

  • The Sky this Month
    • 3:00 PM
    • 4:00 PM

Sunday, April 23

  • Full-dome show TBA (a Hatter Planetarium original production)
    • 3:00 PM
    • 4:00 PM

Sunday, May 7

  • The Sky this Month
    • 3:00 PM
    • 4:00 PM


The Sky This Month: December 2016


Stop by the Hatter Planetarium for our final public show of 2016: 2:30 and 4:00 PM on Sunday, December 4. Show topics will the winter solstice, a tour of the December skies, and recent astronomy news.

The Hatter Planetarium is located on the first floor of Masters Hall. The show is free and the public is welcome. First-come, first-seated; the doors close when the show begins.