Yerkes Observatory Tours - University of Chicago Ending 121-Year Relationship

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Curt Renz

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On June 2 my brothers and I visited the Yerkes Observatory, which is owned and operated by the University of Chicago. It’s located in Williams Bay, Wisconsin on Geneva Lake not far from Chicago.

Yerkes was built in 1897 and originally housed the telescope with the world’s widest aperture, a 40-inch refractor. It’s still there. It had a long history of significant astronomical discoveries by prominent astronomers.

Hour-long $10 tours are conducted every day but Sunday. You learn about the unique architecture of the building, then sit near the large telescope for a lecture about it. During scheduled evenings you can observe through the large telescope for $100.

The tour and accompanying lectures are marvelous. The reason for the fees is that the U of C will divest itself from association with the observatory on 2018 OCT 01. Local residents who perform docent duties including lecturing are in the process of raising funds so that they can keep the observatory running and continue providing tours.

If you are living in or visiting Northern Illinois or Southern Wisconsin, I highly recommend touring Yerkes. Here’s a link to its website:
astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes

Meanwhile, I've been in contact with the head of the local community's Yerkes Future Foundation. Ditto for the chairman of the physics department at Northern Illinois University which is not far from Yerkes Observatory. They are now in contact with each other. While an institution of higher learning is needed to maintain and operate the facility, a homebuilder is needed to develop the surrounding 77 acres near Geneva Lake.

Below is a link to an article regarding the Yerkes Future Foundation. Its proposal is essentially a place holder as it seeks prospects with deeper pockets.

https://www.chicagomaroon.com/article/2018/5/11/new-group-submits-proposal-keep-yerkes-open/