Washburn Observatory from the front.

Washburn Observatory



The UW-Madison Astronomy Department offers free public observing at Washburn Observatory on the first and third Wednesday of each month, and every Wednesday June through August, weather permitting. The Open House sessions are hosted by UW astronomy graduate students. The public viewing sessions are informal, so there is no lecture or tour.

The status of the upcoming Washburn Observatory Open House is displayed in the Washburn Twitter Feed, which is usually updated approximately 30 minutes before the scheduled start time of the session.

The dome is open to the outside air so dress appropriately. Food and drinks, as well as flash photography are not allowed in the observatory.

Please also note the free public observing opportunities offered through our Universe in the Park program and through UW Space Place, the education and public outreach center of the UW Astronomy Department.


Unfortunately, to preserve the original character of Washburn, the telescope is not handicap accessible and is only reachable by climbing a flight of stairs.

April through September: 9pm to 11pm

October through March:  7pm to 9pm

The Observatory will be hold nighttime observing sessions every Wednesday during June, July, and August, and the first and third Wednesdays the rest of the year.


There is parking on the street in front of the Observatory and lot 26. If additional parking is required, you may park in lot 34. Both lots are open to free public parking after 4:30pm. When you arrive at the observatory, please enter at the south door (that faces away from the lake) and go directly up the stairs to your right. Then proceed through the door in front of you into the dome.

In case of further questions, contact washburn@astro.wisc.edu.

The Washburn Observatory Dome does not have a phone line, so please direct all inquiries to the above E-mail address or see the Washburn Twitter feed for up-to-date information about the status of the upcoming Washburn Open House.