Steward Observatory celebrates 100 years as a University of Arizona campus department

Photo by Melody Hardegree-Ullman. Steward Observatory.

TUCSON, Ariz.–The University of Arizona Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory held an open house for the public from Friday, Feb. 16 and Saturday, Feb. 17 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Steward Observatory as a campus department.

The History

Photo taken from a presentation given by Dr. Thomas Fleming. 1916 Arizona Daily Star headline “Anonymous Friend Gives U.A. $60,000”.

Back in 1916, Lavinia Steward anonymously donated $60,000, which would be nearly $1.3 million today, to commemorate her late husband Henry Steward, by buying “a telescope of huge size,” an Arizona Daily Star article from the same year read.

In 1918 only two years later, on Feb. 12 (about a century and a week ago!), the Arizona Board of Regents appointed astronomer Dr. Andrew Ellicott Douglass as the Director of Steward Observatory, and made it an official research unit at UA, according to a letter written by then-UA President Rufus Bernard von KleinSmid.


The Anniversary

Photo by Jessica Blackburn. A man views the Sun through a filtered telescope outside Steward Observatory on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018.

The open house held last weekend showcased poster exhibits, scientific talks, solar viewing and more, to commemorate Steward Observatory’s 100th year as a UA campus department.

On Friday, Associate Dean of the College of Science and Director of Active Galactic Videos Dr. Chris Impey held a lecture titled “A Century of Astronomy Innovation at Steward Observatory,” to end the commencement of the celebration.

On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the public could attend a number of half-hour talks given by members of the astronomy department on subjects of astronomy from its history in Arizona to star formation in the Milky Way.

Photo by Jessica Blackburn. Poster created by Active Galactic Videos’ Jenny Calahan and peers on display at Steward Observatory from Friday, Feb. 16 to Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018.

Throughout the courtyard and the halls of Steward Observatory, there were exhibits ranging from various subjects of science, including astronomy, entomology and even electrical engineering.

Active Galactic Videos’ own Jenny Calahan, along with peers, exhibited a poster on the “Searching for Inflow Towards Massive Starless Molecular Clump Candidates.”

Dozens of department members spent the day celebrating with and educating hundreds of visitors of all ages from the UA and Tucson community on the history and achievements within the department.

Be sure to check out Steward Observatory’s Public Evening Lecture Series given throughout March and April 2018 from 7:30-8:30 p.m., 933 N. Cherry Ave.