Engaging the Community

Sharing our passion for discovery and commitment to giving back to our local schools, libraries, camps, senior living facilities, hospitals, and other area organizations is vital to our scientific mission.

The Carnegie Observatories maintain an active public outreach program designed to share our work with the general public, provide science education activities and resources for students and educators, and to connect our scientists with communities in Pasadena, Los Angeles, and beyond.

Carnegie staff connect with the public in a number of ways including classroom visits, community lectures, school science nights, science festivals, visits to community groups, and more. We have a number of outreach resources, including small telescopes and a portable inflatable planetarium that we can bring to schools, libraries, and community events.

We plan and host larger events at our campus and elsewhere throughout the year. Each year we open our doors for an annual Open House at our campus in Pasadena with activities and exhibits for all ages and education levels. Our staff also participate in large STEM festivals throughout Southern California, primarily aimed at reaching K-12 students.

The Observatories is also a partner in the larger City of Astronomy, a network of several institutions in Pasadena that work together to plan city wide outreach events and share resources and community outreach requests.
Image of Observatories director John Mulchaey during his lecture n 2015.

Astronomy Lecture Series

Each Spring we partner with the Huntington Library to provide a unique lecture series covering a wide range of topics in astronomy and astrophysics from how we build cutting edge scientific instruments to the most recent discoveries and research by Carnegie staff. These lectures are streamed live and archived online, and a parallel series is also run at Pasadena City College.

People crowd around the Ask an Astronomer table at the Observatories' open house

Open House

Each October, when possible, we open our campus to the public for the afternoon. At our family-friendly event we host an array of exhibits, interactive displays, talks, and give people a chance to meet our scientists. Our most recent open house saw ~1,000 guests from the local community and beyond.

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A STEM girls group visits the Carnegie Observatories' machine shop

School Partnerships & Classroom Visits

We partner with schools in Pasadena and Los Angeles to bring scientists to science nights, stargazing evenings, science festivals, science fairs and more. Our scientists participate in a variety of ways, bringing interactive activities, telescopes, and our new portable planetarium to kids from K-12. Currently we average 15-20 such events a year, mainly with Pasadena public schools

Meet Our Outreach Coordinator

Upward Bound program participants at Mount Wilson Observatory.

Mt. Wilson STEM Fieldtrips

Since 2016 we have partnered with Mt. Wilson to develop a series of Science lessons for students visiting Mt. Wilson Observatory. Students experience the historic facilities and beautiful mountain landscape while learning how the telescopes connect with modern scientific research directly from scientists themselves.

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Jeff Rich shows off the inflatable planetarium during an outreach night at Villa Park Community Center in Pasadena

Portable Planetarium

In 2018 we acquired an inflatable portable planetarium for use in our community outreach thanks to a generous grant from Pasadena Community Foundation. We have also developed partnerships with area hospitals to bring our portable planetarium to kids in long-term care and thanks to another grant now have a portable dome that is wheelchair accessible.

Outreach activity at Las Campanas Observatory's offices in La Serena, Chile

LCO Outreach

Las Campanas Observatory, in Chile, maintains an extensive science education and outreach program. It carries out face-to-face activities for the community and online activities for Spanish speakers. On the other hand, LCO, together with GMTO, toured schools with the Conciencia Astronomía mobile laboratory.

LCO leads inclusive activities for people with visual, hearing and intellectual disabilities. We invite you to visit LCO's easy-to-read website (available in Spanish).

In addition, they have daytime on-site visits and a nighttime virtual tour through their facilities.

Meet the LCO Outreach Officer