No Open Nights until further notice

Sadly, there will be no Open Nights conducted at Stephens Memorial Observatory until further notice. One of the most effective means of preventing spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is to maintain at least six feet of distance between each other. Inviting the public to share the crowded space beneath the observatory’s ~16-foot dome would not be wise in view of the risk. Furthermore Hiram College, in compliance with CDC recommendations, does not permit gatherings of 10 or more people on campus properties. To assist in protecting the health of our attendees (and ourselves) we do not expect to conduct any Open Night sessions the spring or summer of 2021. This notice will be updated as changes warrant. Until we meet again, please watch this website for other news and follow us on Twitter. Thank you for your interest!

First Published June 8, 2020
Update: April 3, 2021

The observatory’s closed, video programs to be produced

The space inside Stephens Memorial Observatory’s dome has seen throngs of people over the years. Anyone who has visited on a busy Public Night knows it doesn’t take very many people to make a crowd around the big telescope. So to help protect public health with the novel coronavirus on the loose our Public Nights are cancelled, almost certainly for the remainder of 2020.

In place of public gatherings, we plan to produce a series of non-technical short video programs on various astronomy-related topics. The first program will be a look at several telescopes and how they work. Announcement of programs will be made via this website and Twitter.

Here’s a link to a video of observatory director James Guilford talking about the situation:

If you have suggestions for program topics, please write us using the Contact Us tab at the top of this page.

We’ll be apart for a while

COVID-19 coronavirus - Image Credit: CDC I don’t need to tell you the sort of impact the spread of the novel coronavirus has had on plans for, well, just about everything this spring. Around now is when we at Stephens Memorial Observatory would be scheduling and opening to the public for monthly stargazing.

As we noted in a recent post here, a small observatory dome is no place to collect a group of people — a group of any size — when there is a pandemic disease circulating. If you’ve been to one of our Open Nights, you know it gets crowded and loud with not very many people present!

So early on we independently decided to postpone our public openings.

The novel coronavirus is “out there” and circulating. It is foolhardy to believe that after two weeks or so it will simply go away. With no vaccine available, the only true preventative is isolation. So that’s what we’re doing.

Remember this when you think about whether widespread closures are actually needed: The virus that causes COVID-19 appears to spread about as easily as the common cold. But this disease can be much more severe — sometimes deadly. A deadly disease that can be caught and spread as easily as a cold! That’s the reason for current shutdowns of bars, restaurants, and other businesses that bring people together. Think about that, please, as you go about your daily living.

I believe relative isolation will be advised for the general public for some months to come. I enjoy our public nights together under the dome but I don’t want anyone, myself included, to become ill because of our little gatherings. So there’s a very good chance Stephens will not open to the public any time this year.

In the meantime, I’m putting together technologies that will allow us to share either live or recorded live views of astronomical objects from a local telescope. We may also do some video presentations about the observatory and its telescope. I’ll keep you informed about future developments along those lines.

I’ll close here by thanking you for your interest in what we do, and thanking those who are repeat visitors to our humble observatory. Please help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and stay well. We’re all in this together and it will take sensible behavior from all of us to get out.


Best wishes and stay healthy,

James Guilford, Director and Janitor
Stephens Memorial Observatory

For trustworthy information about the novel coronavirus, and COVID-19 disease, visit the Ohio Department of Health website:

Season opening postponed

Well, it looks like we’ll not be opening our Public Nights season this month after all.

Outside of the usual concerns over wet and cloudy weather, and issues with our old building, now we have public health matters to take into consideration.

While the observatory is pretty much open to outside air when in use, people are quite close together under the dome — closer than public health experts recommend.

We’d rather everyone enjoy the night sky in good health and not have Stephens become a place where illness is spread; so we will watch and wait for resolution of the pandemic COVID-19 disease. When gatherings again make sense, we’ll announce and commence our season of Public Nights.

Until then, we’ll point out opportunities for home stargazing when clear nights occur and most of those suggestions come via our Twitter feed. You don’t need to have a Twitter account to see what’s going on, simple visit:

Through this all, we’ll fall back on the wisdom of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy upon which is written in large, friendly letters, “Don’t Panic”. No need to hoard toilet paper or bottled water. Just be smart about what you do to protect your health and the well-being of others. There’s plenty of good information available online if you choose wisely.

Here are a few good resources:

Ohio Department of Health

Ars Technica — Updated Daily

World Health Organization