Jacobsen Observatory

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Important Announcements

We are officially booked out for the 2024 season! If you would like to be added to the waitlist, email the date of the open house (a schedule can be found below), the name for the reservation, and the number of people in your party. We will get back to you if a spot opens up!


Welcome to the web page of the public events program at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory (TJO) of the University of Washington.  Come and join us for open houses where we offer a view through our 1895 telescope on clear dark nights. In addition, enjoy evening talks and other activities during your visit for people of all ages, from 6 to 100. Tickets are free.

Programs normally take place at the observatory on the first and third Tuesday evenings of April through September, rain or shine.  The staff are entirely volunteers, including undergraduates from the “League of Astronomers” within the Astronomy Department as well as members of the Seattle Astronomical Society (under the auspices of the UW Astronomy Department).

TJO Evening Public Events


Theodor Jacobsen


Sky viewing is the main event of the evening.  However, nightfall comes late. So doors open at 8 or 9 PM from April through September (see below for dates and times) while the sky is still light.  The first major event of the evening is a public talk by students or faculty.  Then, once skies are clear and dark, our spirited volunteers from the Seattle Astronomical Society open the old dome, point the telescope to objects of interest, and public viewing begins once the skies darken unless the skies are overcast.


The lecture and other events in the program are always taking place until the observatory closes for the evening — no matter what the weather.  You will enjoy the 1895 “transit room” with ornate 19th century brass equipment that was used to calibrate the time on precise clocks used throughout the state.  (Time is now kept with atomic clocks at the U.S Naval Observatory.)  Our volunteers also have live exhibits that appeal to everyone.

The TJO honors the remarkable career of Prof. Theodor Jacobsen at UW between 1928 until his death at age 102.  (His last book was published in 1999.)  Built in 1895, the Observatory and its lovely brass 6-inch refracting telescope are presently committed to public viewing and exploration of the wonders of the Universe.  The telescope was designed in the days before electricity was common. So, the telescope tracks the sky using its original gear-and-weight mechanism—much like the wind-up drive of a grandfather clock.  It was used by UW astronomers for research until about 1945.

Note: there is an ADA ramp to the classroom inside the observatory; however, access to the dome is possible only via a narrow wooden stairway built in the 1890s. We urge you to dress warmly!  

A special thanks to members of the Seattle Astronomical Society for their many years of participation at the TJO and dedication to public outreach!  Please see their web pages for their other outreach events.

Evening Event Schedule

Public Talk Program: Talks begin when the observatory first opens.

Viewing: The telescope opens for visitors once the evening sky is dark (about an hour after the observatory opens, depending on the month).

Date (2024) Hours Public Talk
  April 2 (FULL) 8pm - 10pm Nancy Cooper - The April 8, 2024 Solar Eclipse - all about eclipses
 April 16 (FULL) 8pm - 10pm

Chester Li - Let's hunt some little green men!

Ishan Ghosh-Coutinho - What if the Sun Swallowed a Black Hole? The Absurd Physics of Compact Objects as Stellar Cores

May 7 (FULL) 9pm – 11pm Binh Nguyen - What is a Galaxy?
May 21 (FULL) 9pm – 11pm

Ishan Ghosh-Coutinho  - Title TBD

Elizabeth Pawelka  - Life in the Past, Present, and Future Universe

June 4 (FULL) 9pm – 11pm Sabrina Minnick - James Webb Telescope as an Astrophotographer
June 18 (FULL) 9pm – 11pm TBD
July 2 (FULL) 9pm – 11pm TBD
July 16 (FULL) 9pm – 11pm TBD
August 6 (FULL) 9pm – 11pm TBD
August 20 (FULL) 9pm – 11pm TBD
September 3 (FULL) 8pm - 10pm TBD
September 17 (FULL) 8pm – 10pm TBD
 The TJO is closed from October to March.

Open-House Tickets and Reservations

Tickets are free but absolutely necessary since space is limited (the TJO classroom holds only 45 people and the dome access is limited to 12 people at a time.)  You will be assigned into groups for access to the telescope as you pick up your tickets when doors open, first come and first served.   Your tickets will be handed to you as you enter the observatory classroom (far left door).  We advise groups with young children to arrive promptly.

Please send your ticket request to 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. We apologize that we may not be able to accommodate every request for tickets.  If you are unable to get a ticket for one night then feel welcome to submit another request for a later date.  We may not be able to host groups of 12 or more visitors at open houses.

Group Events

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 offer a wide variety of activities that we could include in the evening’s program.

Please make all requests at tjores@uw.edu.  Be sure to include your name and email, the nature of your group, how many people will be coming (limit 45), several dates that will work for you, and let us know if  special arrangements are needed. Please note: the number of special group visits is limited.  Schedules and dates depend on volunteer availability.

Talks at our planetarium are also available to school groups on Friday afternoons at no charge.  Please see UW Planetarium Page for more information and to make reservations.

Directions & Parking

The observatory is located about 100 yards south of the north campus entrance at NE 45th and 17th NE.  Try entering “Theodor Jacobsen Observatory” or GPS coordinates “47.660503, -122.309424” into your favorite map program.  The TJO is a bit difficult to see from the entrance road, Memorial Drive, since it lies is in a clump of trees immediately east of the parking kiosks.  The Burke Museum is nearby.

Pay parking is available in the adjoining lot “N5” for $6.50 per car (the rate can change). Spaces are usually wide open near the observatory each evening.  See Directions & Parking page for prepaid permits or pay using PayByPhone on your phone after you arrive. As a last resort you can also get parking passes for lot N5 at the parking kiosk at the entrance to the UW Underground Parking Garage east of NE 40th and 15th NE.

Alternately, use light rail to the U District U-Link station (Brooklyn and 45th) and walk three blocks east on 45th to the TJO. During UW holidays you might find parking on an adjoining street (where many UW students park their cars).

Other links of interest


Please consider making a gift that will go directly towards enriching our educational public outreach efforts at the TJO, maintaining the old telescope, and supporting our unpaid volunteers in their work. Thank you for your support!