Fick Observatory

Fick Observatory
Organization Iowa State University
Location Boone, Iowa, United States
Coordinates 42°00′20.2″N 93°56′38.2″W / 42.005611°N 93.943944°W / 42.005611; -93.943944
Altitude 314 m (1,030 ft)
Website Fick Observatory
Mather 0.6 m reflector
Radio 8.5 m dish

The Fick Observatory is an astronomical observatory owned and operated by Iowa State University. It is located southwest of Boone, Iowa and is named after Davenport, Iowa amateur astronomer Erwin W. Fick.


Iowa State University’s original telescope and observatory, located northwest of Ames, was donated by the family of Milo Mather of Clarksville, Iowa, following his death in 1960. Mather was an accomplished amateur astronomer and mechanical engineering graduate (1907) of Iowa State. In 1970, the mirror from his telescope was reconditioned and used in a newly reconfigured telescope, also named after Mather, and installed in the Erwin W. Fick Observatory.

Iowa State built its present observatory southwest of Boone, Iowa, in 1970. The facility was named after Erwin W. Fick (1897–1975), an amateur astronomer and retired member of the U.S. Corps of Engineers from Davenport, Iowa. Though Fick had never been to Ames, let alone graduated from Iowa State, he set up a trust through the ISU Foundation to help support Iowa State’s observatory. New imaging devices, such as the CCD (charge-coupled device) camera installed in 1990, and the short focal length of the telescope allow researchers to obtain wide-field views of the sky to very faint limits. Measurements gathered by the Mather telescope can be used to complement data obtained by larger observatories, which often sacrifice wide views for fine detail. Over the years, Iowa State researchers have used the Fick Observatory for a wide variety of studies, including stellar radial velocity observations, studies of ring galaxy collisions, and lunar occultation studies.[1]

In 2015, the Erwin W. Fick Observatory closed. It was the last astronomical research observatory operated by a college or university at a dark-sky site in the state of Iowa.[2]



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