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St. Louis Library Telescope Program

 149 telescopes available for checkout

Don't have a telescope in your Library? 

Have your library contact us at: librarytelescope@slasonline.org

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The St. Louis Library Telescope Program seeks to foster scientific literacy, stimulate an interest in astronomy and provide people who have never looked through a telescope the chance to experience the excitement that comes from discovery. The program takes advantage of the public library system infrastructure to place telescopes in local public libraries for circulation just like a book. 

The St. Louis Library Telescope Program offers two types of programs.  One program The St. Louis Library Telescope Program offers two types of programs.  One program makes telescopes available for checkout by the general public.  Our second program and newest venture makes available telescopes for exclusive checkout by educators.

Telescopes for "library patron" checkout (131 telescopes available)

Orion StarBlast 4.5Our program for the general public to checkout a telescope like a book was launched locally  in November 2014 and has proven widely popular.  St. Louis area library patrons report finding the telescopes easy to operate and are excited by the amazing views of our solar system and the stars.  We get many "wows" when viewing the "Moon" or "Saturns rings" for the first time.  Library patrons can get training on how to use the telescope from amateur astronomers at the many "star parties" held each year in area libraries. 

View our St. Louis Astronomical Society calendar of events.

 The telescopes are widely disbursed in more than twenty participating St. Louis area libraries.  Several libraries have at least one telescope available in each of their branch locations.  Library patrons age eighteen-years or older with a valid library card are able to check out a telescope for seven days.  The popularity of the program means patrons may find themselves on a library "waiting list" to get the telescope.  But most find it is worth the wait. 

View our list of participating libraries and program history/funding sources

The St. Louis Library Telescope Program modeled its program based on a design by Marc Stowbridge and the New Hampshire Astronomical Society and uses the Orion StarBlast 4.5" Reflector Telescope as its foundation with each telescope modified by amateur astronomers to make it more patron friendly and durable.  Telescopes are equipped with accessories to help library patrons explore the night sky, including a user’s manual, constellation guide, Moon map and night light.  The New Hampshire design has proven both functional and durable.   Amateur astronomers partner closely with the libraries to provide training for their staff and assist with equipment maintenance.

 Telescopes for "educator" checkout (18 telescopes available)

Effective April 18, 2017, the St. Louis Library Telescope Program is expanding to make available telescopes for exclusive checkout by K-12 educators.  With the historic August 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse just around the corner, the initial phase of this program will make thirteen SunSpotter Solar Telescopes available to local educators as a tool to teach their students about the Sun and eclipses.  A second phase will add five Orion StarBlast 4.5" Reflector telescopes to the program providing tools for educators to teach about the night sky.   

Orion StarBlast 4.5“Sunspotter” telescopes are instruments used exclusively for viewing the Sun. They employ a small refracting telescope and a set of mirrors to project an image of the Sun safely, onto a white screen within the telescope. Several persons can view the image at a time. The telescopes display solar surface features such as sunspots on any clear day. They will also show the progress of the Moon’s shadow on the Sun during the partial eclipse phases on August 21. The eclipse path enters the United States in Oregon, continues through several states including Missouri and Illinois, and exits the country in South Carolina before ending over the Atlantic Ocean. the country in South Carolina before ending over the Atlantic Ocean.

Similar to the general public checkout program, the telescope checkout period will be seven days. Library patrons must be age eighteen-years or older with a valid library card and have identification proving they are actively employed as an educator in a public, private or parochial school.   An information package provided with each telescope contains directions about the operation of the instrument as well as instructions for several activities related to the Sun, solar eclipses and the night sky.

Participating libraries in the educator checkout program include:

Funding for the thirteen SunSpotter Solar Telescopes was provided by the Steinheider Duncombe Mini-Grants Program of the American Astronomical Society Solar Eclipse Task Force, with support from the National Science Foundation. Only thirty-one proposals were funded nationwide. The Duncombe Mini-Grants are intended to inform and engage the public with the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. An additional telescope was donated by the Astronomical Society of Eastern Missouri for circulation in the Saint Charles area. 

Funding for five Orion StarBlast 4.5" Reflector telescopes was from the St. Louis Astronomical Society (four telescopes) and the Astronomical Society of Eastern Missouri (one telescope).  The telescopes are modified in manner similar to the same model used for the public checkout program with some variations to make the telescope more suitable for classroom use by educators.

Our Partners

The St. Louis Library Telescope Program would not be a success without the cooperation of its many partners.  The St. Louis Astronomical Society would to thank the executives, staff and patrons of St. Louis area libraries for making the St. Louis Library Telescope Program a success.  We also like to thank the New Hampshire Astronomical Society, Astronomical Society of Eastern Missouri, Illinois University Edwardsville, Jefferson College, Missouri Dark Sky Observers, River Bend Astronomy Club, Southeast Missouri State University and, of course, the generous support of members of the St. Louis Astronomical Society for making the rapid expansion of this program possible.



Help for library patrons

Download the some handy guides to get you started using the library telescope.

Quick Start Guide: Download

Observing Guide: Download

Help for educators

Are you an educator getting started with the SunSpotter Solar Telescope?  Here is help to get you started...

Read more about our program: Program Press Release

Help for library staff

How to plan star parties for your library:

Star Party Scheduling Guide: Download

2017 Program Updates

Update on March 31, 2017:  The St. Louis Library Telescope program added a new program offering telescopes for exclusive checkout by educators.  18 telescopes were added including 13 telescopes were Sunspotter Solar Telescopes for use in viewing the Sun and 5 telescopes were Orion StarBlast 4.5" Reflector Telescopes use in viewing the night sky. 

Press release

News Stories


EditRegispan class="style1">This site established February 20, 2001. This site was last updated March 28th, 2010
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