Discover Saskatoon

Winter Stargazing at Saskatoon’s University of Saskatchewan Observatory

Arts & Culture
Posted By Tara Dupuis , December 12, 2023

While days become shorter as we head into winter, the silver lining (or shall we say shining star) of our dark nights is ample opportunity for stargazing. Did you know that here in Saskatoon we have the University of Saskatchewan Observatory which is open to the public for exploring the night sky? Read on for some history of the unique building and how to experience this local gem.

For more ways to explore Saskatoon this season, check out our Winter Activity Guide.

Photo Credit: University of Saskatchewan, University Archives and Special Collections, A-11009

University of Saskatchewan Observatory History 

Both university funding and private donors contributed to the construction of the University of Saskatchewan Observatory. While officially opened in April of 1929, construction of the Observatory occurred in two phases between 1928 and 1930 at an approximate cost of $23,000. Open for more than 90 years, this recognizable feature on campus holds much history! See if you can recognize any of the donor names on the plaque that hangs inside the dome.

Did you know: The University of Saskatchewan was founded in 1907. 

Photo Credit: Daniel Belhumeur

Photo Credit: Daniel Belhumeur

How to Visit the University of Saskatchewan Observatory

University students and visiting academics use the telescopes and other equipment regularly for their studies. Elementary and high school classes and other local community associations often partake in guided tours of the Observatory with campus personnel. For those wishing to visit and view celestial objects via the telescope, the first and third Saturday evenings of every month are open to the public free of charge. Consult the times and schedule here.

Explore More: Many other buildings are of architectural interest on the University of Saskatchewan campus. Take a stroll through ‘the bowl’ at the heart of campus to admire points of interest like the Peter MacKinnon Building (previously called the College Building), the Thorvaldson Building (previously called the Chemistry Building), and Qu’appelle and Saskatchewan Halls.

Photo Credit: Daniel Belhumeur

What’s on View at the University of Saskatchewan Observatory 

So, what can we see? When you visit, staff will point the three meter long refracting telescope at planets, star clusters, galaxies, or other notable celestial objects on view depending on the time of the year. If you happen to visit on a cloudy night, staff are still present at the Observatory and will guide visitors through an educational slide show. On display year round is a small museum about the solar system, astronomy, and black holes. Fun for those of all ages!

Insiders Tip: Dress warm as the upper part of the Observatory (with the open dome to the sky) isn’t heated. 

Photo Credit: University of Saskatchewan, University Archives and Special Collections, RG2024, 2006-086-1861

Getting to the University of Saskatchewan Observatory

The Observatory is located on the University of Saskatchewan campus one block north of the Wiggins Avenue and College Drive intersection. If you are driving, there is a paid parking lot to the east of the Observatory. There is a public transportation stop for various bus routes directly across the street and select other routes will drop you off at the University Place Riel transit hub on campus.

Looking to incorporate a stop at the Observatory into some city exploration? Read our Winter Wonderland: Explore Architecture in Saskatoon this Season or Trekking Our Way Through The Snow: A Guide to Enjoying Saskatoon Winters for some local inspiration.