The planets come alive at Leitner Observatory

Leitner Observatory at Yale

“Tuesday, March 28, 2023: the night of the five planet alignment.” What an exciting headline to follow. 

As someone with no knowledge of astronomy or astrophysics of any kind, all I expected was five brighter-than-the-stars points in the sky that will be visible after tilting my head. Looking for the alignment in the night sky, I convinced my friend to climb up Science Hill and a little further to arrive at the hill with the Leitner observatory, an astronomical observatory maintained for student use. Even outside of the observatory, the location is a great place to sit at a nice bench on the hill and get a clear view of the sky. However, I was surprised to see a crowd of people outside the observatory.

At first, I thought everyone was here to see the rare planetary alignment, but upon further inquiry, I discovered that there was a weekly Leitner Observatory event every Tuesday. As part of the event, Leitner Observatory is open to the public on Tuesday nights, where there is a 1 hour free planetarium show (6-7PM) inside the observatory at the planetarium theater while an astrophysics professor sets up the telescopes outside on clear nights. Anyone is welcome to these events, ranging from Yale students to community members to family members.

Even though the horizon blocked 2 of the 5 planets in alignment, it was great to have the opportunity of looking through these telescopes and learn more about the instruments as well as a brief explanation of what’s going on in the night sky.

Outside of telescope building
Outside of the telescope station

Inside of the telescope hub
Waiting to get inside the building

View from the telescope at Leitner
Peeking in for a look through the telescope

Community Nights at Leitner
Crowd of people surrounding another manually adjusted telescope operated by a Yale professor!

Even though I couldn’t see the full 5 planet alignment, I definitely got more than I expected with this fun activity at Leitner. I’d never seen the moon in such great detail before!