An opening reception for the

Williams College Planetarium

Colleges / January 26, 2019

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., September 8, 2016—Williams College invites you to experience the wonders of our universe at the Milham Planetarium, located inside the Old Hopkins Observatory at Williams College. For reservations (recommended) contact Michele Rech at (413) 597-2188 or email at [email protected] Others will be admitted as space permits. Large groups should call for special appointments.

Astronomy students at the College will host free shows for the public on the following Friday evenings at 8 p.m.: September 23, 30, October 7, 14, 21, 28, November 4, 11, 18 and December 2 and 9. Audiences will be treated to shows from the high-precision Zeiss Skymaster ZKP3/B opto-mechanical planetarium projector, installed in April 2005.

The Zeiss Skymaster is capable of demonstrating phenomena including: retrograde motions of the planets, phases of the moon, the varying temperatures/colors of stars, locations of neighboring galaxies, the mythological figures and zodiacal signs ascribed to constellations, the Southern Hemisphere’s sky, comets, artificial satellites, and much more.

Fall 2016 shows will be hosted by Williams College students Rececca Durst ’17, Sarah Stevenson ‘17, Diego Gonazlez ‘18 and Glen Gallik ’18. Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy, Jay Pasachoff, is Director of the Hopkins Observatory.

The Hopkins Observatory, built in 1836-38 by the first professor of astronomy at Williams College, Albert Hopkins, is the oldest extant observatory in the United States. Shows will last about 50 minutes.

The Hopkins Observatory is on a small hill on the south side of Main Street east of Spring Street in Williamstown and just east of Lawrence Hall Drive, on which planetarium patrons share parking with the Williams College Museum of Art. A campus map showing the Hopkins Observatory’s location can be found on the web at or at 829 Main Street, Williamstown, MA in .

Williams College’s Milham Planetarium Reopens

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., September 28, 2016—Williams College’s Milham Planetarium reopened on Friday night, September 23, for the fall series of public shows on Friday nights. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of its rebirth with its current planetarium double-headed projector, from the Zeiss optical company in Germany, the planetarium was visited this week for three days by a Zeiss technician and has been peaked up and reborn in perfect condition to show the stars as seen from Earth. The planetarium also demonstrates the motions of the Sun, Moon, and planets; the Milky Way, the constellations, and views from various places from the north pole to the south pole.

Prof. Jay Pasachoff is Director of the Hopkins Observatory and its Milham Planetarium, which commemorates Prof. Theodore Milham, one of Pasachoff’s predecessors as Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College. Instrumentation Engineer Jason Mativi of the Science Facilities maintains the planetarium between biannual servicing visits from Zeiss personnel. The original 10-year contract arranged by Pasachoff with former Williams President Morty Schapiro has just expired, and Pasachoff worked with Associate Provost Chris Winters and with Zeiss to arrange budgeting for the current visit and for a 10-year further maintenance contract.

The Planetarium, with its Zeiss ZKP3/B projector from what is generally acknowledged to be the foremost optical company in the world, is used for public shows on Friday nights during the academic year and twice weekly during the summer tourist season. Student Teaching Assistants give not only the public shows but also special shows for school, scouts, and other groups. Free reservations, to avoid overbooking, are coordinated by Administrative Assistant Michele Rech, 413 597 2188, [email protected]. The students in Prof. Pasachoff’s and Prof. Karen Kwitter’s lower-level astronomy courses also visit the planetarium once each semester. Prof. Hugh Crowl from Bennington College has also been using its facilities to demonstrate the sky and its motions in spherical coordinates, making it much easier to comprehend than the motions are on a flat page or screen.

Planetarium Student Teaching Assistants for the 2016-17 academic year are head TA Rebecca Durst and also Sarah Stevenson, Diego Gonzalez, Glen Gallik, and Brett Bidstrup.

The Milham Planetarium is in a domed room below the 7″ telescope made by Alvan Clark, the famed 19th-century telescope manufacturer. The Williams telescope, purchased by observatory founder Albert Hopkins (after whom the Hopkins Observatory is named) in 1852, led Clark to quit his job in Cambridgeport and set up a company to make telescopes. Ultimately, his company made the largest refracting (that is, lens) telescope in the world–the 40-inch telescope of the Yerkes Observatory of the University of Chicago. The historic telescope is under modest restoration by Lincoln, Massachusetts, antique-telescope expert Alan Sliski. Pasachoff and Sliski recently looked at the Moon through the historic telescope, finding an excellent lunar image.

Restoration is continuing. Historic parts are newly on display at the Mehlin Museum of Astronomy in the wings of the planetarium; Mehlin was Pasachoff’s immediate predecessor as Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Hopkins Observatory. Pasachoff is only the fifth director since the observatory was built in 1836-38, including instrumention purchased by Hopkins in London in 1834 as authorized by Williams College trustees. Hopkins was director from the Observatory’s birth in 1836 through 1872, Truman Henry Safford was director from then through 1901; an oil portrait of him hangs in the east wing. Willis Isbister Milham was director from 1902 through 1942. Theodore Mehlin was director from 1942 until his death in 1971. Pasachoff became director on his arrival at Williams College in 1972. During his sabbatical and other leaves, Prof. Karen Kwitter has been in charge.


For building locations on the Williams campus, please consult the map outside the driveway entrance to the Security Office located in Hopkins Hall on Main Street (Rte. 2), next to the Thompson Memorial Chapel, or call the Office of Communications (413) 597-4277. The map can also be found on the web at