Chabot Space and Science Center

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View of the entrance of the Chabot Space and Science Center.
Solar clock at the Chabot Space and Science Center.

Chabot Space and Science Center, located in Oakland, California, is a hands-on center featuring interactive exhibits, a digital planetarium, a large screen theater, hands-on activities and three powerful telescopes.

The Center is the continuation and expansion of a public observatory that has served San Francisco Bay Area schools and citizens with astronomy and science education programs since 1883. It is named after the father of hydraulic mining and benefactor of the original Oakland Observatory, Anthony Chabot.


The sign at the entrance of the Chabot Space and Science Center.

The institution began in 1883 as the Oakland Observatory, through a gift from Anthony Chabot to the City of Oakland.[1] The original Oakland Observatory was located in downtown Oakland and provided public telescope viewing for the community. For decades, it also served as the official timekeeping station for the entire Bay Area, measuring time with its transit telescope.

The observatory moved to its Mountain Boulevard location in 1915 due to increasing light pollution and urban congestion. In the mid-1960s, the facility was expanded considerably. Throughout this time, the Chabot Science Center, as it was renamed, was staffed mainly by Oakland Unified School District personnel and volunteers. In 1977, seismic safety concerns terminated public school students’ access to the original observatory facility. The observatory building remained open to the general public, but school activities were limited to outlying classroom buildings and the planetarium.

Wightman Observatory Plaza at the current location.

Recognizing the need to restore full access to the facility, either by repair or relocation, in 1989 Chabot Observatory & Science Center was formed as a Joint Powers Agency with the City of Oakland, the Oakland Unified School District, and the East Bay Regional Park District, in collaboration with the Eastbay Astronomical Society, and in 1992 was recognized as a nonprofit organization. The project was led by Chabot's Executive Director and CEO, Dr. Michael D. Reynolds, breaking ground for the facility in October 1996 with construction of the new 88,000-square-foot (8,200 m2) Science Center beginning in May 1998.

In January 2000, anticipating the opening of the new facility, the organization changed its name from Chabot Observatory & Science Center to Chabot Space & Science Center. The new name was chosen to better convey the organization's focus on astronomy and the space sciences, while communicating both the broad range and the technologically advanced nature of programs available in the new Science Center.

Opened August 19, 2000, the Chabot Space & Science Center is an 86,000-square-foot (8,000 m2), state-of-the-art science and technology education facility on a 13-acre (53,000 m2) site in the hills of Oakland, California. The museum was formerly an affiliate in the Smithsonian Affiliations program.[2] but is currently no longer an affiliate.


Aside from its telescopes, it contains:

  • The Planetarium, a "full dome digital projection system" with various shows running daily.[3]
  • The Tien MegaDome Theater, a 70-foot (21 m) dome screen auditorium which presented various IMax-like shows.[4] (now no longer in regular use).
  • The Challenger Learning Center, a hands-on simulated space mission environment where 8 teams work together to complete a mission.[5]
  • Many changing exhibits, full of hands-on displays, that highlight space and science topics. As of August 18, 2006, there are nine open exhibits.[6]


Chabot's 8-inch (200 mm) telescope, Leah.
Chabot's meridian transit telescope.
Chabot's 20-inch (510 mm) telescope, Rachel.

Chabot Space and Science Center has three observatory telescopes. "Leah", an 8" refractor telescope, was built in 1883 by Alvan Clark and donated by Anthony Chabot.[7] "Rachel" is a 20" refractor telescope, commissioned in 1914 from Warner & Swasey, with optics by John Brashear.[8] It is the largest refractor in the western United States regularly open to the public. "Nellie" is a 36" reflecting telescope which opened in June 2003 and is housed in a rolling roof observatory.[9]

Observatory quick facts[edit]

  • Original Observatory built: 1883, Downtown Oakland, California
  • Second Observatory built: 1915, at Mountain Boulevard
  • Third (Present) Observatory built: 2000, at Skyline Boulevard

Telescope statistics[edit]


Meridian Transit Telescope

  • Type - Transit telescope
  • Maker - Fauth & Co., 1885
  • Aperture – 4 inches
  • Focal Length –
  • Mount – Double Pier Transit
  • Usage Intent – popular and educational use / time determination




Chabot's Ask Jeeves Planetarium

The Planetarium seats 250 people under a 70-foot (21 m) diameter dome, and features live weekly shows and daily pre-recorded "fulldome" shows. The weekly live shows are presented by a staff astronomer.

  • Live Show:

Cosmos 360 uses the planetarium's digital fulldome system to view the night sky as well as flying through space to see the universe from a different perspective. The guided tour include in-depth views of planets, constellations and other current astronomical events. The show is updated to reflect seasonal night skies.

  • Daily Shows:

The daily shows range from content geared for young children through more sophisticated shows designed for a general audience.

A complete schedule and listing of daily shows as well as current show times can be found at the center's planetarium page.[10]

Galaxy Explorers program[edit]

The Chabot Space and Science Center offers volunteer and educational opportunities to local teens, who work as explainers on the museum floor or on outreach trips. The program was initiated by a grant from YouthALIVE! (Youth Achievement through Learning Involvement, Volunteer and Employment!) through the Association of Science-Technology Centers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chabot Space & Science Center (CSSC) educates students of all ages on Planet Earth and the universe". Archived from the original on August 15, 2006. Retrieved August 19, 2006. 
  2. ^ "Chabot Space and Science Center". Affiliate Details. Smithsonian Affiliations. 2011. Retrieved July 15, 2011. 
  3. ^ Visit Chabot Retrieved August 19, 2006. Archived November 16, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Visit Chabot Retrieved August 19, 2006. Archived November 16, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Challenger Learning Center
  6. ^ "Featured Exhibits". Archived from the original on September 6, 2010. Retrieved August 19, 2006. 
  7. ^ "Virtual Science Center". Archived from the original on August 6, 2006. Retrieved August 19, 2006. 
  8. ^ Virtual Science Center Retrieved August 19, 2006. Archived September 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ "Virtual Science Center". Archived from the original on August 6, 2006. Retrieved August 19, 2006. 
  10. ^ Chabot's Planetarium Retrieved August 19, 2006.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°49′07″N 122°10′50″W / 37.81861°N 122.18056°W / 37.81861; -122.18056