Happy Birthday Ladd Observatory

Today is the 132nd birthday of the Ladd Observatory. Each week, staff astronomer Francine Jackson sends out a newsletter with skywatching updates. For instance (weather permitting, grrrr) “We have a meteor shower this weekend, the Orionids, appearing to originate from Orion, the Hunter. As the Moon will have set as Orion rises, you should be able to count 10 to 20 meteors per hour.”

This week Jackson honors the building’s history:

This week, we send birthday greetings to Ladd Observatory itself, dedicated October 21, 1891.  A gift from brothers Frank and Knight Cheney, the land, at the time the highest point in the city, is about a mile from the center of campus, was chosen for it to be built.  At its dedication, over 400 people attended, many at the time well-known scientists.  Professor Upton* declared the new facility would serve three purposes: astronomy instruction for the Brown students, service to astronomical research, and furnishing time signals, which Ladd provided to the Rhode Island Electric Protective Company from 1893 to 1973.

I strongly recommend the newsletter and remember, the observatory is open to the public on Tuesday nights . . . weather permitting, grrrr.

Coincidentally, today is International Observe the Moon Night . . .  weather permitting *sigh*.

*After a broad and successful career in astronomy and meteorology, Winslow Upton was offered a position at Brown in 1884, in order to become director of the soon-to-be-built observatory. Five years later, with no building in sight, he decided to leave. Fortunately, at that time, then Governor Herbert Warren Ladd gifted Brown with the funds, and Ladd Observatory opened just two years later.

Ladd Observatory, 210 Doyle Avenue, (directions)


And I’d like to thank Alexis (below left) and the rest of the Brown Astronomy Club for setting up the telescopes on the Main Green on October 14th. They distributed eclipse glasses and helped the public safely observe the event. They were fun to talk to — great ambassadors for the sciences.

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