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The Cincinnati Observatory celebrates telescope's 178th 'birthday'

A man poses with a mahogany-encased, brass fitted telescope in a dome with one panel open to the daylight.
Bill Rinehart
Astronomer Dean Regas poses with the Mitchel telescope on the anniversary of its first useage.

Dean Regas is hoping for clear skies tonight. That's so he can open the dome for a special night at the Cincinnati Observatory.

Today marks the anniversary of the first use of the Mitchel telescope. Regas says the mahogany and brass telescope was built in Germany and shipped to Cincinnati in 1845.

"Having a wooden telescope that's been in Cincinnati exposed to the weather of Cincinnati for 178 years, and the fact it still works, and incredibly well, is a testament to how amazing this telescope is," he says. "It's a work of art, and a work of science."

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The telescope is named for Observatory founder Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel, and Regas says it draws people from around the world. "One of the biggest things we hear is 'wow!' People get so excited when they look at this."

Despite its age, Regas says it's not obsolete. "We use this telescope daily. At nighttime we use it to look at the stars, moon, planets — that kind of thing. In the daytime, we can put solar filters on it and look at the sun safely."

He says it's the oldest telescope still in use in the country.

"When we look at the moon through this telescope, you can see the craters up close, you can see the mountain ridges. You can see the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter."

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The Observatory is having a party Friday. Weather permitting, Regas says they'll look at Venus and Orion.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.