Star Chart

Download this month's star chart.


Download a planisphere that can be used all year.


Download a sundial that can be used in Michigan.

Solar Eclipse 2017

What is a total solar eclipse?
Essentially, it's when the moon moves right in front of the sun, covering it completely for a very short time. It darkens the whole sky, lets you look right at the sun (only when it's completely covered, though - you must use special solar viewing glasses (also known as "eclipse glasses") whenever the sun isn't completely eclipsed), and shows you the beautiful corona that surrounds the sun. Stars come out, the horizon glows with a 360-degree sunset, the temperature drops, and day turns into night. It's one of the most beautiful things you can ever see on earth.

Aren’t these pretty common?
Well, one happens about every year or every other year, somewhere on earth. However, you have to be situated in a very narrow strip of land (called the 'path of totality') if you want to see the total phase of the eclipse. Otherwise, all you see (with your eclipse glasses, of course!) is a pretty boring partial eclipse. And that strip of land is generally VERY far off the beaten path - like Mongolia, or the Sahara desert, or the ocean somewhere. Very few people (as a percentage of the overall population) have ever seen a total solar eclipse.

When will it happen?
Monday, August 21, 2017. For the Detroit area, the eclipse will start around 1:03pm and end around 3:47pm.

What is Cranbrook Institute of Science doing?
Though we won't be in the path of totality, we will still play host to a day's worth of events. In the lead up to August 21, all of our Michigan Sky Tonight public planetarium programs will feature a segment on the eclipse. On the day of the event, we'll do specific eclipse programs beginning at 11am. We will also stream views from locations in the path of totality as well as make available our observatory for safe viewing.

Purchasing A Telescope Box

Buying your first telescope can be very intimidating. Here are some simple pointers that can make the whole experience enjoyable and rewarding.

  • Avoid buying a telescope from a discount store, shoppers club, or a TV shopping network. Those telescopes tend to be lower quality instruments.
  • Buy a major brand name scope from a real telescope dealer with astronomers on staff who will be able to help you after the sale.
  • Ask your local astronomy club members for the name of the dealer nearest you or for the name of a reputable astronomical products mail-order house with which they have had good experiences.
  • Remember, a telescope that is cared for properly will last for decades, so it would be wise to buy the best you can afford.
  • Quality telescopes can be rather expensive items. Even a small telescope, like a 60mm refracting telescope with a 1.25" eyepiece, can cost several hundred dollars.
  • Bigger lenses or mirrors gather more light, the more light you can gather the more objects you will be able to see.
  • If at all possible, join an astronomy club and look through lots of telescopes before you buy one. One of the local astronomy clubs is the Warren Astronomical Society. They meet at Cranbrook Institute of Science every first Monday of the month at 7:30pm.