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Rice University Campus Observatory

RUCO LX200GPS Telescope RUCO

About the Observatory

The Rice Campus Observatory (RUCO) is used primarily as a teaching facility for undergraduate education.  Classes which make use of the observatory include Astr 201: Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe and Astr 202: Exploration of the Solar System, both introductory classes for non-science majors; Astr 221: Observing the Night Sky, a new lab class for students in all academic programs; and Astr 230: Astronomy Lab, the primary course for Astronomy majors and others to learn to use a research calibre telescope and equipment including spectrometers and CCD imagers.  Students in Astr 230 also learn advanced image processing techniques such as IRAF which they use on data taken at the campus observatory to do a final research project. Complete descriptions of the courses can be found here.
The observatory is guided by a committee of faculty with Professor Reginald J. Dufour as its chair.

Observatory Location

RUCO is located on the north side of campus, to the west of the North Parking Lot and on the north side of the intrmural fields. It is most easily accessible from entrance 13 off of Rice Blvd.
Location of RUCO The location on campus marked with a red dot. Please Note: There is a charge to use the visitor parking at Entrance 13, payable by credit card only. For major events this parking may fill up, but visitors can then use the Stadium parking lot about a half mile away. The Campus shuttle bus services the Stadium lot; ask the driver to direct you to the closest stop to the observatory. Note, all campus shuttles stop running at 10:40 pm, so keep this in mind when planning your trip.
The map is taken from the Rice Univeristy Campus Parking Map, which is an interactive map you may wish to consult if you are driving to campus. The only free parking for non-Rice visitors is available on the west side of the football stadium, quite a distance from the observatory.

Open Houses

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View Saturn, the first quarter moon, and deep-sky objects like the Orion Nebula!

General: Approximately once a month we have public viewing open houses on a weekend night near first quarter moon. The dates for these are posted at this website approximately two weeks in advance. During special astronomical events we may also have special public viewing sessions. The times for open houses depend on local sunset times, but generally start about an hour after sunset and go on for 2-3 hours thereafter. During summer months, when school is not in session, we might have additional open houses. During mid-November through mid-February we suspend open houses due to the combination of bad weather and holidays. Reservations for special nights by groups or for during scheduled open houses are not practical given our limited staff, so viewing through the 16 inch telescope is done on a "first-come, first-served" basis (sign-up sheets during high attendance nights). School groups interested in seeing an astronomical observatory and looking through telescopes should contact the George Observatory in Brazos Bend State Park (281-242-3055), which is a larger facility dedicated to serving schools in the Houston area, and one which has weekly public viewing on Saturdays.

Fees: Unless specifically noted as Rice only or private above, the open houses are available to anyone. Aside from parking described above, there is no fee to attend the observatory open house.

Notes on Telescopes: The best views of planets, stars clusters and nebulae are with our computerized 16 inch telescope inside the dome, but we can only accommodate about 60 people an hour looking through it and on busy nights a sign-up system is employed. However, in addition to this telescope, there will be 2-3 (or more) smaller telescopes set up in the parking lot for viewing. These smaller telescopes do not require sign in. Our experience has been that the large telescope is able to see planets and the Moon well through thin clouds, and if it is clear we get good views from the smaller portable scopes as well. When the Moon is out, we will get some wonderful resolution with all the telescopes. If you have small children (i.e., less than about 7 years old, we recommend that they use the telescopes set up in the parking lot. The wait to see through these telescopes is much shorter than for the telescope in the dome, and small children are rarely able to discern any more detail through the large telescope. The Moon is probably the ideal target for children, as it is bright and easy to see.


Houston is plagued by poor weather much of the time. On the nights of the observatory open houses, check back here around sunset or later to make sure it will not be cancelled due to clouds. If it is raining, or has rained significantly during the afternoon, the observatory will be closed.

Click for Houston, Texas Forecast

Five-day Houston Forecast
Visible cloud cover for Texas
IR cloud cover for Texas
60 hour Meteogram
0-7 day Meteogram
8-16 day Meteogram

More Information

For more information about astronomy and space science at Rice please refer to our research pages and our course listings Additional space-related events of interest to the public can be found on the Rice Space Institute home page.