Astronomical Observatory, likely circa 1913. Photo Credit: Beal, p. 74.
Very little record of the College’s first Astronomical Observatory has been found. The equatorially mounted telescope gets a brief mention by Kuhn, but only Professor Beal gives it more than a single sentence:
“Professor R. C. Carpenter deserves credit for getting a telescope and accessories in good working trim at the College. The instrument is a fine one; it is mounted to move by clockwork, and although rather small—the lens only 5½ inches, was manufactured by the celebrated firm of Alvan Clark & Son. The observatory, located just northwest of the professor’s residence, is of brick, with movable roof.”[Beal, p. 75]
As Professor of Mathematics, Carpenter lived in Faculty Row № 2, and the Observatory was indeed virtually in the Professor’s back yard. This is its position on Newman’s 1915 map.
Its later existence is unclear. The building might have been removed when the new U.S. Weather Bureau station (now Wills House) was built nearby in 1927, and it does not appear on a campus map of 1931. It was certainly gone by the time of Sarah Langdon Williams Hall in 1937. By then, the old telescope would have been long outdated anyway; it is now on exhibit at the Abrams Planetarium.
Today, the M.S.U. Observatory stands north of the intersection of Forest and College Roads. Its 24-inch telescope, built by the Boller and Chivens Division of the Perkin-Elmer Corporation, was commissioned in 1969. Its Raytheon Microcomputer data gathering and control system was state-of-the-art when it was installed in 1974. Since the 1980s the telescope has employed a charge-coupled device for image gathering.