Schoonover Observatory670 N. Jefferson Street
Lima, OH 45801
The Schoonover Observatory is located in Lima’s Schoonover Park and is the only public observatory in north-central Ohio. The Observatory is open each weekend in the summer and during special space events for public stargazing and educational programs.
The Schoonover Observatory offers sophisticated equipment for visitors of any experience level to view the night sky. The Observatory’s tower houses a 14” Celestron Telescope with a computer-controlled mount. The Celestron is pre-programmed for viewing popular sights like the moon, Venus, and distinctive star clusters. For more experienced stargazers, it can be manually focused. Five smaller telescopes can be assembled outdoors for public viewing and visitors may bring their own equipment for public stargazing.
Members of the Lima Astronomy Society offer a free educational program each Friday night in the summer, covering topics like the moon’s phases, atmospheric conditions, and the history of stargazing in Allen County. The educational room of the Observatory is on the main floor and footage from an astro video camera attached to the telescope can be shown to groups via a live feed. The educational space and surrounding park grounds also host large groups for viewing major events like Haley’s Comet, meteor showers, and lunar eclipses.
Founded in 1952 by a junior high student, the Lima Astronomy Society is entirely volunteer run. Members of the society constructed their own professional telescope in the early 1960s. Lima boasted many local industries and the society’s members included a chemist, physicist, and CEO of a Lima aluminum company, all of whom contributed their skills to constructing the telescope. The Observatory was constructed in 1964 to house the telescope with help from the Lima parks system and the philanthropy of the Schoonover family. The original telescope no longer functions, but the newer computerized system offers many educational benefits.
Allen County has been connected to the wider national project of stargazing for decades. During the Space Race of the 1950s and 60s, many local clubs like the Lima Astronomical Society ground their own telescope lenses and developed immense expertise on the night sky. Nobel-prize winning astrophysicist William Fowler grew up in Lima, where his proximity to the railroads sparked his interest in science and engineering. Delphos native Leslie Peltier possessed only a tenth-grade education but became nationally recognized as an amateur astronomer. He discovered several comets and contributed over one hundred thousand observations to the American Association of Variable Star Observers. The Schoonover Observatory offers an important link between Lima’s stargazing past and today’s astronomy enthusiasts.
Notes for Travelers
Steps are required to enter both the main floor of the Observatory and the second floor housing the telescope. Paved lot parking at the Observatory is limited but parking on the grass in front of the building is permitted. Families are welcome, and equipment adjustments can be made so children can look through the telescope. The walkway surrounding the second floor of the Observatory offers a beautiful view of the lake at Schoonover Park.
Additional ResourcesRegas, Dean. 100 Things to See in the Night Sky: From Planets and Satellites to Meteors and Constellations, Your Guide to Stargazing. New York: Adams Media, 2017.
Sobel, Dana. The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars. New York: Penguin House, 2017.