Saturday, December 21: Special Open Night

Photo: The Orion Nebula by James Guilford, 2012
The Orion Nebula, Messier 42, as it may appear to viewers through small telescopes. Photo by James Guilford, 2012.

UPDATE: Over the course of the event 29 visitors enjoyed exquisite views of the Orion Nebula. Excellent seeing conditions allowed the nebular cloud to fill and extend beyond the telescope’s field of view at 104X magnification; possibly the finest view of that astronomical object that we have enjoyed. Also viewed was the red supergiant star, Betelgeuse, which is at the left shoulder of the constellation’s mythic figure. Betelgeuse has been the topic of discussion lately because the variable star has dimmed noticeably from its more typical brilliance.

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will host a special Public Night Saturday, December 21, from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. The Great Orion Nebula will be the featured object on a night billed as a “holiday gift.” The observatory is usually closed for the winter but organizers wished to offer views of the nebula this year. Clear skies will be especially important for this event.

Cloudy skies at the scheduled starting time cancel the event in which case, the observatory will not open. No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights.

The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

Updates on programming are available via the Observatory’s Twitter feed: @StephensObs and on this website.

We Wish You Peace and Happiness

Photo: "Solstice Skies over Stephens" Photo by David Dreimiller.
“Solstice Skies over Stephens” Photo by David Dreimiller. While it’s not actually solstice quite yet, the low sun and cloudy skies certainly go with the season!


The date of our final scheduled observatory Open Night has passed and Stephens Memorial Observatory will close for the season. If we enjoy a stretch of clear nights this winter, we may open for a special Open Night event (we would love to show you the Orion Nebula) so watch this website and our Twitter feed for updates. Otherwise, we’ll hope to reopen in March for monthly sessions. Until then, we wish you a happy holiday season and a new year full of peace and happiness.

Peaking this weekend: Orionid meteors aplenty!

Photo: Fireball Meteor, Oct. 20, 2017. Credit: NASA/All-Sky Fireball Network
A Grand Orionid Fireball Meteor Imaged over Hiram Friday, October 20. Credit: NASA/All-Sky Fireball Network
Earth is entering a stream of debris from Halley’s Comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Thursday night, NASA’s network of all-sky meteor cameras detected 23 Orionid fireballs over the USA –meteors that flare brighter than the planet Venus shines– a result of comet dust hitting the atmosphere at speeds exceeding 65 km/s (145,000 mph). Among several fireballs recorded by the Fireball Network camera on the Hiram campus was the grand meteoric streak pictured above; that fireball was also recorded by the camera located at the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh in the wee hours of Friday morning. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Oct. 21-22 with as many as 25 meteors per hour. The meteor shower is called “Orionid” because the “falling stars” appear to originate from the vicinity of our sky occupied constellation Orion. Visit for observing tips and sky maps. — From a report by plus local contribution.

Weather conditions may be best for us overnight Friday as the Orionids shower builds towards its peak.
Weather conditions may be best for us overnight Friday as the Orionids shower builds towards its peak.