MAS June Monthly Meeting

MAS History Project – MAS Turns 90

UW Students' Observatory from the mid-70s

The Madison Astronomical Society is turning 90 next year. All this spring the History Committee has been delving into the archives, interviewing surviving members, pouring over newspaper microfiche, and turning over rocks. Come see some of the surprises we’ve discovered.

This photo was shot at the Oscar Mayer Observatory (in Fitchburg) sometime in the mid-1970s by one of the Explorer Post Scouts. This observatory used to be the UW “Students’ Observatory” and from 1880 to 1960 sat on Observatory Hill right beside the Washburn Observatory. In 1960, as the university moved its Astronomy department into Sterling hall and its observing activities to facilities on mountaintops in the western US, it donated this observatory to the MAS, who moved it to Fitchburg, where it still stands today. MAS abandoned it in 1985 when it moved to YRS in Green County.

The Scouts’ Explorer Post was MAS’s youth outreach arm, a surprisingly active and energetic group of high-school-age boys and girls who kept the older folks alert for their shenanigans. Before that, in the 50s and 60s, there was a “Junior” MAS, since a membership requirement for the main group was that members be 18 years of age or older.

The June meeting will be a virtual event, hosted with Zoom. Members will receive an email with link and instructions to join a day or two before the event.