UCI Observatory - Astronomy Outreach Program

Astronmy Outreach event at the former UCI Observatory on the UCI campus.Our Astronomy Outreach program began in 2003 when Professor Tammy Smecker-Hane received a grant from the UCI FOCUS program, funded by the National Science Foundation. It continues today with funding from the School of Physical Sciences and from fees paid to us by the participating schools and groups. We offer tours of the UCI Observatory, which is located on the outskirts of campus, and we bring lectures, hands-on activities and telescopes to local K-12 schools. You can read more about the program by downloading our poster paper given at the June 2006 American Astronomical Society meeting.

Tours of the UCI Observatory and classroom visits are conducted by undergraduate and graduate students, who are studying astronomy and physics at UCI. Classroom visits usually take place during normal school hours, and tours of the Observatory can either take place during afternoons or evenings. We charge a fee for this service, which pays for the students' salaries and the materials used during your tour or classroom visit. We will work with you to design a program that fits your needs, and the price will vary according to the duration of your tour or visit and the numbers of students involved. A typical tour/visit will include a powerpoint presentation on a topic of your choosing (Earth/Moon/Sun, Solar System, All About Stars, or Galaxies and the Universe) and hands-on activities.

In August, 2014, the UCI Observatory was demolished to make way for new faculty housing construction. We are in the process of deciding where and when to build a new Observatory and we do not yet have a firm date as to when we will open a new one. However until then we still can bring our portable telescopes and hands-on astronomy activities to local schools or groups either during the daytime or night time. To request a visit, simply follow the instructions below:

  • Evening Visits:  We can bring our portable telescopes to your meeting site. Evening tours will typically run from 7:00 to 9:00 pm in the winter and 8:00 to 10:00 pm in the summer.  Contact the graduate student outreach coordinator below to discuss what planets, star clusters, and nebulae are visible at that time of the year. Maps of the night sky will be handed out and instructions will be given in how to use them to identify planets and constellations. A Powerpoint lecture can be subsituted for telescope viewing in the event of cloudy weather. We can also include hands-on activities to teach different topics. See the Activity List for details on the type of activities and their appropriate age range. Typical Cost: $140 for 50 children, parents and teachers, but exact cost depends on the length of the event and the number and type of activities you want us to do with your students.


  • Astronomy Outreach event at a local high school.Daytime Visits: Daytime visits can be either during the morning, afternoon or both,  depending on your school bell schedule and the scope of what you want. We typically will come and do a program for an entire grade and do age-appropriate hands-on activities with individual classes which, for example, might include building a scale model solar system, create a comet from dry ice, view sunspots and solar flares with other telescopes, and include a Powepoint presentation and Q&A session for all students in that grade in a multi-purpose room. See the Activity List for details on the activities we offer. Typical Cost: $300 for 100 students, but the exact cost will depend on the number and type of activities you want us to do with your students.


Visits will be scheduled on a first-come first-served basis.  To arrange a visit for your school or group please email your answers to the questions shown below to astro_outreach@ps.uci.edu, and the graduate student Astronomy Outreach Coordinator will contact you. The more complete your answers are the easier it will be to schedule your visit. Demand for these events are high, so the early you contact us the better. If you have any questions you can contact us at the numbers below. For more information on our other astronomy outreach activities, please see us on the web at Education and Outreach

Contact Information:

Dr. Tammy Smecker-Hane,  Associate Professor
Mailing Address: Department of Physics & Astronomy
       4129 Frederick Reines Hall
       University of California
       Irvine, CA 92697
Office: 2168 Frederick Reines Hall
Phone: 949-824-7773
Email: tsmecker@uci.edu
Manuel Paul, Graduate Student Oureach Coordinator
Mailing Address: Department of Physics & Astronomy
     4129 Frederick Reines Hall
     University of California
     Irvine, CA 92697
Office: 2169 Frederick Reines Hall
Phone: 951-836-6162
Email: astro_outreach@ps.uci.edu

Questions for Teachers/Leaders who want to book an Astrnomy Outreach Visit:

  1. What is your name, email address, postal address and telephone numbers? Please include a cell or work number, and a home number that will be used only in the case of an emergency.
  2. At what school and in what school district do you teach, or what is the name of your group?
  3. What grade(s) are the students?
  4. How many people will attend the event?
  5. Are you interested in a daytime or nighttime event?
  6. What is the address of the location of the event? Please include a zipcode so we can easily get driving directions from the internet.  For school visits, what is your daytime schedule: start time, recess, lunch, end time? What is the best time for our visit?
  7. Consult our Activity List and let us know if there what specific activities you want us to do with your group.