What to know before visiting the UNH Observatory

UNH Observatory

What to know before visiting the UNH Observatory

1. CHECK THE WEATHER

Unfortunately New England weather can be unpredictable and uncooperative. We do our best to try to follow forecasts, but we'll never be able to 100% guarantee that a night will be clear or cloudy. We ask that you try to understand this and bear with us if we end up holding a session on what turns out to be a cloudy night. We suggest you check this site and our Facebook page for the most recent announcements about session cancellations. We also suggest you check our weather page.

2. DRESS APPROPRIATELY

Before you come to the observatory, please keep in mind the following things. The observatory is NOT heated (it has a big window in the top of it) so please dress in many layers since you will be standing outside in the middle of the night in a windy field. Generally we advise dress for roughly 15-20° colder than the weather says. You'll often catch us wearing hats in the late fall and early spring since at least 30% of body heat is lost through our noggins! Some other items that you may find useful are bug spray in the summertime and some binoculars if you have them. Another great item which can be fun and quick to construct is a red flashlight. Red light doesn't effect human night vision as much as yellow, white, blue, or any other color in the visible spectrum. This means that if you cover your flashlight with red plastic wrap, we'll all be able to see more stars and fainter objects! If you don't feel like buying plastic wrap and rubber bands to cover your lights, we have plenty here at the observatory, so please feel free to ask for some!

3. DO YOU HAVE TO STAY THE WHOLE TIME?

Of course not! Our sessions span two hours and guests are free to come and go as they please. We usually try to have staff outside pointing out constellations or manning other scopes while guests wait for their turn to view through our main scope inside the dome.

4. AGE APPROPRIATENESS

The UNH Observatory is great for children, especially first graders and older. Don't worry about experience, our staff is there to teach you and your children how to properly observe, so you don't have to worry about anything being broken or damaged. We also have plenty of ladders and step-stools to ensure that our smaller guests get views too! We do ask that all children under the age of 16 are accompanied by an adult.

5. HOW TO GET TO THE OBSERVATORY

For driving directions, look here. If you are a student on the UNH-Durham campus, you can hop on the Mast Road Shuttle and ask the driver to drop you off at the observatory! When you want to leave we'll call Transportation services to get the next shuttle passing by to pick you up! During the winter parking ban (Dec. 1 - Mar. 31) , the campus shuttle will be operating until 2am every night of the week, so you don't have to worry about missing your ride back to campus. (Note: shuttles only run during the Spring and Fall semesters).

6. ACCESSIBILITY

The Observatory is located about 150-200 feet from the parking lot and is accessed via a dirt and gravel path that has a slight downward slope. Although the Observatory itself does have a few stairs that might limit access to our main 14" telescope for persons in wheelchairs, we can set up other telescopes on the pads surrounding the Observatory to accommodate those guests. If you'd like to arrange a private session for or plan to attend a public session with a person who might need special accommodations or have any other questions about accessibility, please feel free to contact us via email at unh.observer@unh.edu.

Directions

The observatory is a silo-shaped building located at UNH on Spinney Lane off the Mast Road Extension in Durham near the Old Durham Reservoir. To view directions, click either from UNH or Concord text located below. From Concord will guide you as if you are coming from the West and getting off of Route 4 onto Main St. From UNH will guide you if you are coming from campus and heading West towards 155A and Route 4. Bring binoculars if you have them, and dress appropriately, preferably in layers. During the summer months you should be prepared to meet insects as well. Most importantly, bring your curiosity and your questions!

From UNH

  • Drive West on Main Street
  • Take a right onto Mast Road Extension
  • Take your first left onto Spinney Lane
  • Take your first right to stay on Spinney Lane
  • (This doesn't sound right, I know, but these two roads are both called Spinney Lane! If you were to stay straight, you'd be on O'Kane Rd!)
  • Pull into second dirt parking lot entrance
  • Look to your left and you'll see the observatory!

From Concord:

  • Drive East on Main Street after exiting from NH 155A towards UNH
  • Take a left onto Mast Road Extension
  • Take your first left onto Spinney Lane
  • Take your first right to stay on Spinney Lane
  • (This doesn't sound right, I know, but these two roads are both called Spinney Lane! If you were to stay straight, you'd be on O'Kane Rd!)
  • Pull into second dirt parking lot entrance
  • Look to your left and you'll see the observatory!

For those that don't know this area of UNH too well: 


 

Topo Maps

This is a map from the Topo Maps program. It contained the precise position of each pixel on earth as well as the height above sea level! By clicking on the text above, you'll go to the topozone program which will show our coordinates as well as allow you to view other areas.

Google Maps

If you click on the text above, it will bring you to the adjustable google map.