The H.S. Mendenhall Observatory
Oklahoma State University's observatory is situated under clear, dark skies southwest of Stillwater, Oklahoma. It is the home of Oklahoma's largest and most modern research telescope, and the largest within 300 miles. Pictured at right are the dome (the first of two planned buildings) and the telescope. Visit the 24-inch Telescope Gallery to view images made with it.
The observatory's present structures were completed in 2002. The circular fence, 103 feet across, encloses the dome and a central observing pad for portable telescopes. There is ample space for outdoor stargazing and future expansion. The dome, because it houses the main telescope, is neither heated nor cooled. Visit the Construction Photo Archive to see the observatory being built.
The observatory's smaller, first telescope was in service until May 2006. Visit the 14-inch Telescope Gallery to view images and videos showing the first telescope, the students who used it, and the objects they observed.
Control House Fundraising Campaign
Fundraising continues for the second planned building, the rectangular Control House in the bottom illustration (copyright 2002 by Toby Wilson). It will enable the observatory to host public viewing nights. It will enable students to gain extensive research experience that will help them secure well-paying employment after graduation in industry, science, and defense. The Control House will contain a restroom, kitchenette, computer room, and equipment storeroom, all heated and cooled.
Thanks to contributions of $77,000 from private individuals and a $5,000 pledge from the OSU Physics Department, the remaining amount needed to build the Control House is now down to $117,000. Naming opportunities are available. For more information, please download the illustrated, five-page description of the Control House project in PDF format.
Please note that the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, US Air Force and other federal entities do not fund the construction of buildings—only equipment purchases and research operations.
If you are interested in contributing, please click here to make an instant donation via credit card to OSU Foundation account 22-40400, or contact Dr. Peter Shull and the OSU Foundation.
The Observatory on YouTube, TV and Radio
Click here to see the observatory on YouTube. This 6-minute video includes action shots of the telescope and dome, and interviews featuring OSU's president, two students, and the observatory director.
The observatory is also in the five-part series entitled "Wonders of the Solar System" produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The observatory appears 34 minutes into the second episode, "Order out of Chaos". The series premiered in March 2010 in the UK on BBC Two, in August 2010 in the USA on Discovery Science, and is commercially available on DVD. To see pictures related to the BBC's visit to Stillwater in 2009, click here.
On March 2, 2010, the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) recorded a one-hour interview about the observatory with its director that was broadcast the following weekend across Oklahoma by ten radio stations. Click here to download an MP3 file of the broadcast. The actual interview starts 15 minutes into the program.
The observatory is named for Harrison Shepler Mendenhall, Oklahoma State University's first astronomer.
Dr. Mendenhall earned his Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of California at Berkeley, and served on OSU's faculty as a professor of mathematics and astronomy from 1937 until his retirement in 1968. During World War II, he taught navigation to countless air cadets as a lieutenant and captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Dr. Mendenhall died on March 20, 2000, at the age of 97.
This photograph shows Dr. Mendenhall's personal telescope, a 4-inch refractor built in the early 1890's, set up on the central observing pad.