Skip To Main Content

Select a School

Madison Metropolitan School District

Telescope Loan/Rental Program

Telescopes now available! 

Let the observing begin…

We typically lend a telescope for a two week (or shorter) period.  See details on the telescopes below!

Moon photo taken with phone through telescope
Photo of Jupiter and its moons taken with a phone through a telescope
Photo of the Moon taken with a phone looking through a telescope

These photos were taken with a smartphone looking through the eyepiece of our loaner program telescopes.  (click any image to see a larger version of the image)

NASA has a great resource to learn how to do this in their "A Guide to Smartphone Astrophotography".


Borrow/Rent a telescope!  We have a number of simple, manually pointed, Dobsonian telescopes which are easy to use (e.g. 6" Orion XT6 Dobsonian; photo below right) .   Make a reservation!  When you pick up, we will show you how to use the telescope and then you have it for up to two weeks.  NOTE:  We also have one 8" Dobsonian telescope that is a bit less portable, heavier, but it does have more light gathering power.


DIMENSIONS:  You need to be prepared when transporting... these are small scopes but they are still a large item, so confirm that your car's backseat or trunk is large enough prior to borrowing/renting the telescope.

  • 6" Dobsonians:  (These are numbered for our record keeping... XT6-1, XT6-2, XT6-3, XT6-4)
    Tube and base attached together:  53” x 19” x 19” ...  Note that you can separate the two components...
    Base alone:  27” x 19” x 19”          Tube alone:  47” x 12” x 12”          Weight:  35 pounds
  • 8" Dobsonian: (This is numbered for our record keeping... XT8)
    Tube and base attached together:  20" x 20" x 53" ...  Note that you can separate the two components...
    Base alone:  20" x 20" x 26"          Tube alone:  15" x 15" x 48"          Weight (total):  41 pounds
    Weight of Base:  21 pounds           Weight of Tube:  20 pounds


NO CHARGE...  City of Madison residents and Madison teachers

$5.00 per loan period for non-Madison users.


Telescopes of other Sizes are Available:  We have been fortunate to have a number of telescopes donated to the telescope loaner program.  We offer these telescopes as a way to try different sizes, styles, and complexity of telescopes, and to support your decision making before you purchase a telescope of your own. NOTE:  These telescopes ARE NOT for beginners!  They require more training and experience, and are not as easy to transport. They include a Meade 10" Schmidt-Cassegrain and a Celestron CPC 8" Goto Schmidt-Cassegrain. 

Make a reservation to borrow a telescope...

You MUST reserve a telescope ahead of time. The Telescope Loan Calendar shows the reservations we currently have for other people. Check the calendar to find a time when we have the telescope you want available.  Our loan period for telescopes is typically two weeks.

XT6-1, XT6-2, XT6-3, XT6-4, XT8, Meade-SCT10, and Celestron-CPC8 are the ID numbers we use for the loaner telescopes.

Please check the Telescope Loan Calendar to find an opening, and then fill out the Telescope Loan Reservation Request Form

We will respond to your request via e-mail.

Parking:  When picking up or dropping off a telescope, please try to use one of the Itinerant Parking spots on the west (Gammon Rd.) side of the building near the Memorial HS electronic sign.

Before coming to pick up the telescope, please watch this Telescope Basics Youtube video to learn where to park, how to use the telescope, and how to carry and transport your telescope.

At your designated pick-up time, come to the exterior doors closest to the planetarium sign on the west side of Memorial High School on the Gammon Road side of the building. You DO NOT need to enter the building. Your telescope will be waiting for you outside the building by those doors (entrance #3).

When you are about to drop off the telescope at your designated time, email us at to confirm you are on your way.  Once you arrive, please bring the telescope to the same doors and wait for the planetarium staff to arrive and wave you off. We will come out after you have backed away to a safe distance.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

If you have questions, contact us:


Star Charts: Maps of the sky are very helpful for observing. has an excellent star chart which is available for free year-round and is suitable for printing. To print a map of the sky in Madison, Wisconsin right now, or at a time not shown on our star chart above, try Heavens-Above's Interactive Star Chart.

Smartphone APPS:  There are many great apps to help you find things in the sky, or getting more information about them, my favorite is SkySafari. It's available for iOS and Android and has many versions from very affordable/free to more full featured versions at higher cost.

Jupiter: To figure out which moons you are seeing, check out this web interface, or try Sky & Telescope's iOS mobile app called JupiterMoons

Saturn: To figure out which moons you are seeing, check out this web simulation, or try Sky & Telescope's iOS mobile app called SaturnMoons.

Moon: For observing the Moon in a telescope, it's nice to have a map. An excellent FREE iOS app to consider is Moon Globe. Moon Atlas 3D is a good option for Android users. has a nice Moonrise/Moonset Calendar system.

Weather: Our favorite sources for predicting cloud cover are Weather Underground, the Clear Sky Chart, and Clear Outside. (These links are set for Madison, but you can set those sites for any location. Mobile apps are also available.)

Astronomy Club: The Madison Astronomical Society (MAS) holds monthly meetings with speakers on various astronomy topics. Their members range from beginners to advanced amateurs who are doing astronomical research. They are open to beginners and welcome people to come to their meetings as guests.