Department of Physics and Astronomy

50th Anniversary of Ritter Astrophysics Research Center

Ritter 50th Anniversary

The excitement of the recent solar eclipse touched hearts and sparked the imaginations of generations of families across the country who crowded streets to witness something powerful in the universe. Here at UT’s Ritter Planetarium and Brooks Observatory, we also are planning to celebrate a major milestone and are in need of the public’s help to share its rich history of education, outreach and celestial exploration. Friday, October 13, 2017, marks the 50th anniversary of the University’s astronomy program, the Ritter Planetarium, and the Brooks Observatory.

Construction of Ritter Observatory and Planetarium

The Ritter facility was dedicated on Oct. 13, 1967, with Helen Brooks as the first planetarium director. The Brooks Observatory located in the dome on top of McMaster Hall was later named in honor of Brooks and her late husband, Elgin. The one-meter-diameter telescope housed on top of the Ritter building is the largest optical telescope in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River. The Ritter facility was deliberately planned to blend research and public education for the University, local schools and community. One of the joys of astronomy is that people are inherently curious about it, and so sharing our research and our telescopes with the community have been vital in our mission from the beginning.

On June 15 University of Toledo alum Fred Espenak gave a public talk about the “Great American Eclipse”.

On October 26 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. we will have a free public Open House at Ritter Planetarium, involving a reception and an overview of the history of the Ritter Observatory and Planetarium. Dr. Witt and Dr. Jon Bjorkman will be speaking at this event. Please join us in celebrating our history!

In the next few months we will host the following speakers at free talks open to the public:

  • University of Toledo alum Brian Abott is the Associate Director at the Hayden Planetarium in the American Museum of Natural History in New York under Director Neil deGrasse Tyson. We don’t have a specific date for Mr. Abott's talk at this time.
  • John Grunsfeld was an astronaut and is the Associate Administrator of the NASA Science Mission Directorate, which is appropriate since many of our astronomers use data from Hubble and other space-based telescopes. We don’t have a specific date for Mr. Grunsfeld's talk at this time.
  • Dr. Ken Sembach is the director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), which handles the Hubble Space Telescope and the soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope. Dr. James Webb, who the upcoming infrared telescope is named in honor of, was given an honorary degree at the dedication of Ritter. Dr. Sembach will give a talk in the Spring.

Turin inspects Ritter's mirror

Last Updated: 11/22/17