The Boeing Observatory offers students all over the state the ability to control the telescope & observe the night sky all from their classroom.
Since opening in 2014, the Boeing Observatory has reached more than 100,000 guests and students through on-site field trips, virtual learning, and outreach programs, as well as provided professional development opportunities for South Carolina educators.
Bring Your Students to the Museum's Boeing Observatory on Your Next Field Trip
Boeing Observatory Public Solar Observing
Grades: Recommended for all ages
Maximum Capacity: 50 people
Days: Tuesdays – Fridays
Times: 12 - 5 p.m.
You don’t have to be an astronomer to have access to a state-of-the-art telescope! Take your group to the observatory during the open hours listed above and an astronomy educator will be there to answer questions and engage with your group. Please note that the observatory is an open-air experience and is weather dependent. There will still be a chance to enter the observatory and chat with astronomy educators even if there is poor weather. During poor weather, we show images of planets, the moon, and other beautiful objects from our telescope, and may ask your group fun challenge questions!
During the day, we show real-time views of the Sun using a specially-filtered, safe solar telescope. This telescope allows less than 1% of the light of the Sun to reach our eyes or camera equipment.
Not at all! Simply enter through the observatory classroom during our 12:00-5:00pm viewing hours, and an educator will greet your group.
We try to make eyepiece viewing available whenever possible. Sometimes weather, the position of the telescope, or the number of students in the building make eyepiece viewing problematic. In these cases, we use a camera to stream a live video feed of the Sun to a computer monitor.
Students will be able to see sunspots, prominences (large gas eruptions extending from the Sun’s surface), and other amazing surface features. Occasionally we catch a solar flare in the act, or see birds or airplanes flying through the view. Please note that solar activity varies daily and some days have more interesting features than others.
Below is a processed image of the Sun from the SCSM observatory. There is a sunspot in the upper right, and prominences in the upper right and lower left. The sunspot is about the size of the Earth, and the prominences could extend as far as 50,000 miles from the Sun's surface.
When viewing through the eyepiece, the Sun appears a strong red color because of the filters in the telescope. When viewing with the camera, the image appears black and white. This is because we use a black and white camera, as black and white cameras show better detail. Because of our black and white Sun images, students often think they’re looking at the Moon at first!
Below is an example of our black and white solar images. There is a large, active sunspot group to the far left.
During poor weather (clouds, rain, etc.), the observatory will still be staffed, though the dome won’t be open. Our educators will be able to show you the telescope, as well as amazing images we’ve taken in the past of both the Sun and night-sky objects (stars, planets, the Moon, etc.). Depending on the size of your group and the number of other museum visitors, we may be able to host your students in the observatory classroom for a few minutes for conversational learning and Q&A!
Below is an image of the Moon that we've taken from our telescope. This is an example of the images that we can show your students on cloudy days!
All grades are welcome! Walk-in observatory visits are open to all museum guests.
Absolutely! Walk-in observatory visits are open to all museum guests.
Bring the Power of the Boeing Observatory Right Into Your Classroom!
Museum astronomy educators are excited to connect remotely with your students through these FREE interactive distance learning programs! These programs include images from the SCSM observatory, standards-based astronomy content, and opportunities for student Q&A.
To book an observatory virtual experience, please email Matthew Whitehouse, Observatory Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Observatory Solar Viewing Experience
Grades: 5th and 8th grade focused; available for all grade levels
Duration: 30 minutes
Availability: Tuesdays through Fridays at times customized for your teaching schedule
See a live view of the Sun (weather permitting) from our observatory telescope! If it's cloudy, we have lots of cool space pictures to show. Your students will also interact with our astronomy educators and have a chance to ask their space questions. Our observatory virtual programs have recently been updated to incorporate content from the 2021 SC science standards.
Observatory Night Sky Viewing Experience
Grades: 5th and 8th grade focused; available for all grade levels
Duration: 1 hour
Availability: Tuesday through Friday evenings by arrangement with the Observatory Manager
Join our observatory manager for a special virtual night sky telescope viewing experience! Our observatory virtual programs have recently been updated to incorporate content from the 2021 SC science standards.
Our virtual programs consist of live views from the SCSM observatory, standards-based astronomy content, and time for student Q&A. For daytime programs, we show images of the Sun. For nighttime programs, we show images of night sky objects such as the Moon, planets, stars, and nebulae. We can also customize content to meet your specific needs.
Below is a processed image of the Sun from the SCSM observatory. We use images such as this one to teach 5th grade standards about the brightness of the Sun and its distance from Earth (5-ESS1-1).
Daytime programs are typically 30 minutes long. For nighttime programs, we recommend 45 minutes to 1 hour. Again, these times can be adjusted to meet your needs.
Thanks to the generosity of Boeing and other sponsors, SCSM’s observatory virtual programs are currently FREE for South Carolina students and teachers.
Because schools have different schedules, we don’t set specific times. Instead, we work with you to develop a program schedule that meets your needs and our availability. Observatory programs are typically offered Tuesday-Friday.
We can connect through Zoom, Google Meet, or Teams. During the scheduling process, we’ll discuss which of these platforms is right for you.
Yes! Please contact Observatory Manager Matthew Whitehouse at email@example.com for scheduling information.
Below is an image of the Orion Nebula taken with our Clark telescope. This is an example of what we can see during a night sky viewing experience.
Yes! We can have students from multiple classrooms (or even multiple schools) participate at the same time by putting each classroom in the same Zoom, Google Meet, or Teams meeting. As long as each teacher has the correct link, we’re good to go.
We’re able to run our programs rain or shine. If we have bad weather on the day of your program, we’ll use images we’ve taken with our telescope in the past. The content of the program will remain the same.
Simply contact Matthew Whitehouse, Observatory Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll then work with you to develop a plan that meets your needs.
Because of SC science standards, our observatory virtual programs are 5th- and 8th-grade focused. However, any grade is welcome to participate. This includes high school earth science and astronomy classes. We enjoy presenting these programs for all grade levels, so don’t hesitate to reach out even if you don’t teach 5th or 8th grade!
Absolutely! While these programs are science-focused, classes from all subject areas are welcome. In the past, we’ve had art classes participate, with students creating constellation-inspired artwork after their virtual program experience.
Yes! We have recently updated our observatory virtual programs for the new (2021) SC science standards. For example, the new 8th grade standards include content about eclipses (8-ESS1-1). Below is an image of the May 2022 lunar eclipse taken with our Clark telescope.
Here are the specific standards from the "South Carolina College- and Career-Ready Science Standards 2021":
1-ESS1-1. Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted.
5-ESS1-1. Support an argument with evidence that the apparent brightness of the sun compared to other stars is due to their relative distances from Earth.
8-ESS1-1. Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, tides, and seasons.
8-ESS1-2. Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.
8-ESS1-3. Evaluate information to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system.
High School Earth and Space Science
E-ESS1-1. Develop a model based on evidence to illustrate that energy generated by nuclear fusion within the sun (and other stars) radiates to and influences orbiting planets.
E-ESS1-2. Construct an explanation of the Big Bang Theory based on evidence to show that the universe is changing over time.
E-ESS1-3. Construct an explanation using evidence to explain the ways elements are produced over the life cycle of a star.
Watch this space...more teacher resources coming soon!