Reach for the Stars in Humacao

Oct 2018- they are currently closed to the public due to some construction. I will update this when they reopen.

Horse Head Nebula - UPR Observatory

The nighttime sky has been beckoning people for probably as long as man has been on earth. I think most people have fond memories of their grade school solar system projects. And, many of us still stop to watch a space walk or the launching of the space shuttle.

If you really want to get a closer look at the night sky, you can go to the observatory at the Humacao campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). It’s a fun and educational evening for the star-gazer in all of us.

Our Visit

The Astronomical Observatory is in the Physics building on the UPR Humacao campus. Upon arriving at the university campus, the guard at the gate gave us good directions on how to get to the Physics building. As we walked in, we met some students and their astronomy professor. After some chit-chat, we all went up to the classroom on the third floor.

UPR Observatory

I immediately got the feeling I was transported to the set of the TV show Big Bang Theory, with the blackboard covered with all sorts of physics calculations. I was worried that we were in for a lot of information that was way over our heads.

They set up the slide show and Dr. Muller started his 20-minute talk and we were all really impressed. It was an interesting, educational and enjoyable presentation. The majority of the talk was about telescopes and the types of things that telescopes are good (and are not good) for seeing.

I am sure he has given this talk a hundred times, but he still made it fun. Going into the evening, we thought that we knew something about astronomy — but he debunked our theories and told us the real scoop. For example,

  • NASA overlays 2 photos in order to get their picture of Jupiter and its 4 moons
  • When buying a telescope, magnification is not important. The diameter of the telescope lens is most important (wider is better)
  • Telescopes without a motorized base are useless. Since the earth is spinning, you need a motor in the telescope that moves it at an equal, but opposite rate as the earth’s rotation so that you are able to keep an object in the sky within the field of view of the telescope

So, all you people out there that spent a fortune on a telescope at the Discovery Store … go return it!

After the 20-minute talk and some great pictures of planets and stars taken at the UPR Observatory (a couple of which we are using in this article), they usually take you outside and everyone can have a turn looking through the telescope at whatever is interesting in the sky that night. But … the night that we went it was overcast and raining, so we didn’t get to look at anything in the sky.

Great Orion Nebula - UPR Observatory

We were hoping to see a big telescope, with a roof on the observatory that opened up … like in an old sci-fi movie. Actually, the observatory dome is old and doesn’t open any more, and the original telescope in it is also old and out-dated.

So now you just stand on the roof with this little (maybe 2½ foot tall) portable, state of the art telescope they use. I admit, this was kind of a let down for me … the geek in me wanted to see the roof to open up and to walk up to the huge telescope, but I guess state of the art is better!

According to the students that were there that night, planets and the moon are the best things to look at. As Dr. Muller pointed out, stars are boring — they look like white dots of light! We’re planning to go back on a clear night with a full moon to get a good look at it’s swiss cheese surface!


Trifid Nebula - UPR Observatory

There is no charge for the presentation or to look through the telescope.

The observatory is open to the general public on most Thursday nights, but not every Thursday night. You MUST call ahead to make sure they will be open on the night that you want to go. They are also closed during school recesses. The talk starts at 7:30pm and it can be in Spanish, English or both (depending on the audience). Dr. Muller and his research students welcome questions during the presentation.

You want to go when it is a clear night, when there is a moon in the sky, and hopefully another planet visible

You should give the observatory a call at (787) 850-0000 Ext 9381 for more information and to make sure they’ll be open the night you want to go.

You can visit the observatory Facebook page for more information and to get a map for driving to the campus in Humacao.

The photos in this article were taken by students and faculty at the UPR Observatory in Humacao.

We are in the process of updating the maps we use on our web site. While we're working on that, you can click on the GPS coordinates below to view the location on Google Maps ... assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it! Read more about Safety →

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Hi! I had the opportunity to visit it when I was in high school (long ago) and the then the dome was openned :) It was really cool. When I went to college at RUM they had one too, and I was able to visit it a few times. Have you checked that one? Thanks for the great info!!!!

Comment by Gladys Gonzalez on 09 Jan 2016

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