Educational Programs at Mount Wilson Observatory

GRADES 4-12

Field Trip Programs

Mount Wilson Observatory, one of the most historically important observatories in the world, sits above Pasadena, a hub for Astronomy. Our programs are led by astronomers from the world-renowned institutes of Carnegie Observatories, NASA’s Jet Propulision Lab, and the California Institute of Technology. Students learn, at any level, about the astrophysics that led Hubble to discover the expanding Universe. 

Mount Wilson Observatory was founded in 1904 by George Ellery Hale. Often considered one of America’s greatest astronomers, Hale made lasting contributions to astrophysics as well as the overall growth of science and scientific institutions. During our STEM programs, students will benefit from the legacy of this science pioneer, using tools he developed for astrophysics. Students will get to know and recognize the basics of our vast universe using the very instruments that Hale, Hubble, and Shapley have used. The program also includes the contributions of historic female astronomers. 

All programs can be tailored for time, duration, and content! Our programs are designed to complement and meet Next Generation Science (NGS) standards for 4th – 12th grades, maximizing the value of the program.

To learn more about Mount Wilson’s STEM Educational Program for your school, contact Jessica Rodriguez at stemed@mtwilson.edu or by phone at (571) 762-5850. Or use the form below to reserve a date!

All programs include the following lessons:

Our Place in the Solar System

Held in our 150-ft solar tower, students learn about the scale of planets in comparison to the Sun. If weather permits, student will observe the surface of the Sun and learn about sunspots amongst other solar activity.

Spectroscopy

Using our Helen Snow Solar Telescope, students learn first-hand how to analyze data the electromagnetic spectrum provides, using diffraction grating glasses. If weather permits, students will observe the solar spectrum.

Our Place in the Galaxy - Cosmology

Students learn about the discovery of our place in the galaxy and the discovery of the broader universe while inside our historic 60-inch telescope, where these discoveries were originally made.

Our Place in the Universe - the Physics of Astronomy

Held in our 100-inch telescope dome, students learn about the expansion of the Universe, how we discovered the Universe, and concludes with a demonstration on relativity.

Field Trip programs

4th – 6th Grade: DAY PROGRAM

This range of grade levels is eligible for our Day Program. Students will be taught our four lessons, will visit all of our telescopes, and see the actual instruments used to make some of astronomy’s most important discoveries. Additionally, they have the opportunity to observe our Sun, learning about heat energy and radiation, and how solar energy reaches Earth mostly in the form of visible light.

7th – 12th Grade: DAY, EVENING, & OVERNIGHT PROGRAMS

This range of grade levels is eligible for our Day, Evening, or Overnight programs. In our Evening program, students receive the content of our Day program, but additionally have access to the 60-inch or 100-inch telescope in the evening for observing the night skies. Students learn about a star’s elements, location, life-cyle, color, and brightness. In an Overnight program, students receive all the lessons offered in our Day and Evening programs, with the added benefit of enjoying our overnight lodging after observing.

DAY PROGRAM

Our Day Program runs approximately 4.5 hours, with a break for lunch. Students will visit the Helen Snow Telescope, the 150-ft Solar Tower, the 60-inch and 100-inch telescopes.

  • Fee = $35 per student
  • Minimum students = 20, Maximum students = 40

EVENING PROGRAM

Our Evening Program’s start time and duration are adjustable, depending on the time of year and needs of the students.Generally students arrive in the afternoon, with the visit starting with all the content of our Day Program and solar observations. The Evening Program portion of observing generally finishes around 11 p.m.

  • Fee = $35 per student + telescope fee ($1,100 for 60-inch or $2,500 for 100-inch)
  • Maximum students = 25
  • Students must be at least 12 years old for this program

OVERNIGHT PROGRAM

Our Overnight Program also has flexible start times, depending on the time of year and needs of the students. Including all that is offered for our Day and Evening Programs, our Overnight Program also includes dinner, snacks while observing, lodging for the night, and a light breakfast.

  • Fee = $175 per student

To reserve a date for your school’s STEM program, please fill out the form below.

STEM Program Reservation Agreement

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Visitor acknowledges that the Mount Wilson Institute (hereinafter “MWI”) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation that operates Mount Wilson Observatory pursuant to agreements with the Carnegie Institution of Washington and the United State Forest Service. Visitor agrees to follow all rules, regulations and customs that are promulgated for visitors at Mount Wilson. Visitors will comply with all reasonable instructions of guides, docents and other personnel conducting visits and tours of the facilities on Mount Wilson. Visitor will also comply with all rules and regulations of the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Violation of these requirements may result in suspension of Mount Wilson visiting privileges. Visitor agrees to assume all risks of loss to persons or property which may occur during their visit except such loss as may be occasioned or caused solely by gross negligence or intentional act of any of the officers, agents, employees, or servants of MWI. Visitor agrees to pay the amount due within 5 days prior to the scheduled session. Any changes to the scheduled session that cause a change in the balance due will result in a credit or debit balance, due within 30 days of the session date. By signing this agreement the Visitor agrees to each of the above terms and conditions and certifies that he/she has read and accepts the Cancellation Policy. I have read and agree to the above conditions. *