Although the observatory is located in a public park the building is owned and operated by the University of Pittsburgh. The observatory is a private research laboratory and therefore not opened to the public except for the tour program.
Tours of the building are offered April through the end of October. The reason for this is the tour group spends a considerable part of the tour inside the telescope domes and the temperature inside the dome is the same as the outdoor air. During the winter months the cold air can be a problem for most people. Even in the summer months clear nights can be quite chilly, dress warmly.
The Thursday night tours will be held from May through the end of August and the Friday night tours will be held from April through November 1st. All tours begin at 8 p.m. and last until approximately 10 p.m. A short slide or film presentation is shown followed by a walking tour of the building finally ending up at the 13" Fitz-Clark refractor. If it's a clear night you would be shown whatever celestial objects are within range of the telescope that night.
The tours are free of charge but you must have a reservation. To make a reservation call 412-321-2400 between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you call and do not get an answer please leave your name and phone number and someone will return your call as soon as possible, in some cases we may not be able to return your call until the next business day. If the tour is not full you can make reservations up to the day of the tour, however no reservations will be accepted after 5:00 p.m. Group or individual reservations are acceptable with a maximum group size of 45. We do not put any age restrictions on the tours but we do recommend that children under the age of seven be left at home, generally their attention span is too short and they can be disruptive to the rest of the group. Directions
Tour rules: Please do not enter any areas that are marked employees only. Do not open any doors that are closed. Do not go into any areas that the lights are not on. You must stay with the group at all times, wandering around the building is not permitted.
Every third Friday of the month (except December) there is a public lecture. The public lecture nights start at 7:00PM with some light refreshments, the lecture starts at 7:30PM and lasts approximately one hour. After the lecture there will be a tour of the building. Reservations are required and may be made the same way as for a tour (see above) with the exception that reservations for a public lecture will only be accepted the Monday at 1:00P.M. following the previous lecture. Please Note: Due to the overwhelming demand and the limited space for the public lectures we've made some changes to the public lecture registration procedure. The changes are as follows: Only 2 reservations can be made per person per phone call for a lecture. Only 30 people who've attended the previous lecture can sign up for the next lecture, the rest of the available reservations will be reserved for people who have not attended a lecture previously.
Open house is held once a year it differs from the tour in that more of the building is opened to the public. Instead of having a tour guide, you follow a designated tour path around the building. Both of the main telescopes are outfitted for visual use and the members of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh set up additional telescopes on the front lawn. You must get tickets to this event and they are free of charge you may do so by calling the number listed above. Reservations will be taken beginning at 9:00 a.m. Monday August 1st. Open house is a family night therefore the maximum group size is approximately six. This event is usually held on a selected date in the fall. The year 2017 open house date is Friday September 22nd.
University of Pittsburgh
Department of Physics & Astronomy
159 Riverview Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15214
Last Modified 07/31/2017