ORLANDO, Fla. – Being located at the Space Coast, we often cover launches and talk about astronauts making a trip to space, but now you can get a closer look.
Driving by the Orlando Science Center off Princeton Street, you’ll notice the large silver dome on the roof. It’s not for looks, it’s part of the observatory protecting the million dollar telescope.
“For viewing things in outer space, this is going to do you just fine. You’ll see some crisp details on objects like Saturn and the Orion Nebula that’s more than a thousand light-years away,” said public programs manager Spencer Jones.
The observatory reopened after being off-limits to the public for a year and a half due to COVID-19. Before the pandemic, it was a often crowded space.
“When we had general observatory time, when we’re filtering hundreds of people in within an hour, we have to focus on one object and that’s what you get to look at,” said Jones.
Now, it’s back open only for private experiences, giving guests more time exploring space and learning about different telescopes.
Space enthusiasts like Jones will be on hand to answer any questions and guide you through the nighttime experience that includes stargazing through the lenses of a Refractor Telescope.
“We gather all the light, we focus it up and magnify it and it’s pretty amazing,” said Jones. “Some of my favorite objects is seeing Saturn. You’re literally seeing the rings and gaps in the rings. It’s different than seeing a video or picture.”
The experience is tailored to any age and lasts about an hour. Half of the time will be spent in the observatory looking at the night sky. The other half, in the planetarium, observing what isn’t visible through the telescope. The inflatable dome takes you on an immersive tour through space using a digital projection system to view stars, constellations and planets.
“We have a bubble of light here in Orlando that prevents us from seeing a lot of objects. The planetarium allows us to see the Orlando night sky without all the light pollution,” said Jones.
The observatory is lit with red lights to allow your eyes to stay adjusted to the dark for better night vision, according to Jones.
The Observatory Private Experience is offered Fridays and Saturdays through March 5, 2022. There are two time slots available: 8:30 p.m. or 9:45 p.m.
The experience is offered for up to 10 guests per group and starts at $200 for a group of five for members of the Orlando Science Center and $250 for a group of five nonmembers. There is a fee for each additional person in the group.