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Mendenhall Observatory

Mendenhall Observatory at dusk


Oklahoma State University's observatory is situated under dark skies southwest of Stillwater, Oklahoma. The telescope is the largest and most advanced telescope within 300 miles.


The 24-inch telescope was designed and instrumented for astrometry, photometry and multicolor imaging of objects such as near-Earth asteroids, transiting exoplanets and quasars. View the 24-inch Telescope Gallery to see the first test images made with it.


Additionally, the observatory's portable, 8- and 14-inch telescopes are perfect for visual observing, especially by OSU's introductory astronomy students. Work done by physics and engineering majors with the 14-inch telescope while it was mounted in the dome helped secure Air Force funding for the 24-inch telescope. The 14-inch Telescope Gallery shows their work.


The heated and cooled control building contains a restroom, kitchenette, telescope control room and equipment storeroom, which make the observatory well-suited for both research and instruction.



Funding through the OSU's President's Fellows program made it possible to upgrade the main telescope's complex control system, which was experiencing normal physical and technological aging over the years.


The improvements will enable OSU to introduce an astronomy minor, unique in Oklahoma, that incorporates modern observatory experience. Students who minor in astronomy and major in physics, engineering or related fields will be ready for exciting, well-paying employment after graduation in industry, science and defense.


See us on YouTube

This 6-minute video includes action shots of the telescope and dome, and interviews featuring OSU's president and two undergraduates.


The observatory also appears in the five-part series titled "Wonders of the Solar System" produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The observatory appears in the second episode, "Order out of Chaos". The series premiered in the UK and USA, and is available on DVD.


Dr. H.S. Mendenhall

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.



The observatory's infrastructure was funded by generous private support as well as by OSU. The observatory's layout was derived by professor Peter Shull from a conceptual design by Stanly E Black, AIA, Architect, Boston, Massachusetts. It provides ample space for outdoor viewing and future structures. If you would like to assist with future development of the observatory, please donate here.

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