Washburn University’s Crane Observatory is a hidden gem of Topeka. Check it out during an open house and view the night sky through a Warner & Swasey refracting telescope built in the late 1800s.
Crane Observatory open houses are hosted by the Washburn Department of Physics and Astronomy on the first and third Thursday of the month from mid-August through early May, when classes are in session. The exploratory events always are free and open to children and adults. Observatory open houses, which begin after dusk, are canceled if the weather is not conducive to viewing.
Crane Observatory is on the fourth floor of Stoffer Science Hall, at 17th Street and Washburn Avenue. There is ample free parking in front of the building in Lot 1. Use the southwest entrance to Stoffer Hall and take the stairs to the fourth floor. At present, the observatory is not wheelchair accessible.
The observatory is named for Zenus Crane, who in October 1901 anonymously donated $50,000 for its establishment. His identity was revealed after his death in 1917.
Stoffer Science Hall also is home to Washburn’s Spitz Planetarium. At a planetarium open house, on the second Thursday of the month beginning at 7 p.m., 50 visitors can see a projection of the night sky.
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