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Solar System & Astronomy Programs Across the US: A Quick Guide

milky way galaxy night sky stars

Astronomy Camp

Our understanding of the solar system, astronomy, and astrophysics has expanded exponentially over the centuries. That is largely thanks to the incredible astronomy programs taught in summer camps and on college campuses.

If you’re interested in pursuing an education in astronomy or a related field, read our guide featuring some of the best programs in the US!

Programs for Students of All Ages

Astronomy Camp | Tucson, Arizona

Astronomy Camp prides itself on being Arizona’s longest-running science camp. Founded in 1988 by astronomer Dr. Don McCarthy (who still serves as director), the camp is open to students of all ages and takes advantage of the clear, dark skies of Southern Arizona. The camp provides students the unique opportunity to explore space from the University of Arizona’s Mount Lemmon Observatory north of Tucson.

Astronomy Camp combines all four STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering, and math – into an immersive experience with a hands-on learning approach. Using real scientists as mentors and teachers and encouraging students to learn through self-driven experiments, Astronomy Camp continues to be one of the country’s most successful solar system studies and astronomy programs.

You do not need a connection to the University of Arizona, nor do you need a background in astronomy to attend the camp.

Club SciKidz | Multiple Locations

Club SciKidz is a STEM-based summer day camp with locations around the US, including Dallas, Atlanta, Maryland, and Virginia. Club SciKidz now offers dozens of camps for various scientific and technological interests, including 3D printing, Minecraft, Mobile Game Design, Building & Engineering, Robotics, and Coding. The camp accepts kids from ages 3.5 to 15, with each type of camp having a recommended age for participation.

Colleges & Universities with Astronomy Programs

Haleakala Observatory


The University of Hawaii

Hawaii is famous for its year-round pleasant weather, and as it turns out, that matters when it comes to observing our solar system. The weather conditions are ideal for studying celestial phenomena, which is one reason why the University’s Haleakala Observatory is considered one of the best observation locations in the world. That, and the fact that it is home to the most powerful land-based telescope on Earth!

The telescope’s lens supports clarity of 0.03 arc seconds and still frequently reveals new information about the solar system and astronomy in general. The scope is so powerful that it is managed, in part, by agencies like NASA, the Air Force, and the Department of Defense

The observatory is not open to the general public, so you need to have special permission to access its tools. If that’s not a reason for an aspiring astronomer to apply, I don’t know what is.

New Mexico State University

The Apache Point Observatory, located in the Sacramento Mountains, is operated and managed by New Mexico State University – through several universities in New Mexico co-own the facility and have access to it.

The facility boasts four powerful telescopes that range in size from 0.5m to 3.5m and are equipped with advanced technology to explore the solar system using different imaging techniques, including infrared, spectroscopy, and photometry. Three of the telescopes include a Ritchy-Chretien reflector that allows for deep-sky exploration. Fun fact: the first digital layout of the Milky Way was mapped at Apache Point!

The observatory is made available for Astronomy graduate students and faculty to use, so you’ll need to be in the advanced solar system astronomy program to take advantage of this facility.

Berkeley campus overview from hills

The University of California at Berkeley

UC Berkeley has what is consistently ranked as the country’s top astronomy and astrophysics programs. The famed university’s highly competitive program focuses on providing its students with intense research and lab experience, analytical skills, and hands-on observation.

The state-of-the-art facilities are among the best in the world, and astronomy majors are given access to the David D Cudaback Undergraduate Lab. This 1600 square foot lab is packed with equipment and research archives. Plus, students are invited to join the Space Exploration Society at Berkeley, which works with SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence group, among others.

It’s worth noting that UC Berkeley and CalTech jointly operate the Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii. This iconic observatory utilizes two telescopes, each eight stories tall, with one using an optical lens and the other using infrared technology to scan the night sky with unrivaled precision.

If you’re studying the solar system as an astronomy student at Berkeley, you may find yourself spending spring break in Hawaii…

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

For those who are truly committed to a career in astronomy, astrophysics, or becoming an astronaut, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the brass ring. With campuses in Prescott, Arizona and Daytona Beach, Florida, the school specializes in aviation and aerospace disciplines.

The school’s Prescott Observatory Complex in Arizona offers students and faculty a clear view of the night sky. The facility is equipped with optical and radio telescopes, as well as a separate radio observatory to pick up signals that may be passing through the sky.

The observatory is used on a nightly basis by students and professors alike, so if you really want to get a hands-on education, this may be the program for you.

Pursue Your Passion

Rainbow Symphony is dedicated to providing the educational resources and tools you need to pursue your passion for the planets and the stars! That’s why we offer an extensive selection of high-quality eclipse viewing glasses, solar astronomy educational tools, and more.

If you have any questions about our products or how to use them to further your studying for solar system, astronomy, or astrophysics, reach out to us at rainbowsymphony@rainbowsymphony.com and we’ll be happy to help!

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