Front Entrance of UofSC Aiken


DuPont Planetarium

The Bechtel Telescope

Visit the Bechtel Telescope after evening public planetarium shows. The observatory is open after regularly scheduled planetarium shows on Saturday evenings; weather and dark skies permitting.

The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center Observatory is on the roof of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center on the campus of the University of South Carolina Aiken. The observatory houses the Bechtel Telescope. Bechtel Savannah River Inc. and the Bechtel Foundation donated $30,000 to purchase the telescope for the observatory. Because of this generosity, the telescope now bears the company's name.

RPSEC Observatory
Original Bechtel Telescope
Original Bechtel Telescope
Current Bechtel Telescope
Current Bechtel Telescope
Photos Taken Through the Telescope



81° 46' 10.73198" W
33° 34' 29.14440" N

See location at what3words


Equatorial Pier Angle = 33.59°

About the Bechtel Telescope


The Bechtel Telescope is a 16 inch, Meade LX-200GPS, Schmidt-Cassegrain, catadioptric telescope. What does all of that mean?

  • The telescope's main mirror is 16 inches in diameter.
  • Meade is the name of the company that manufactured the telescope, although the telescope was purchased from Camera Corner in North Carolina. LX-200 represents the specific type of telescope the company manufactures. Meade also makes LX-200 scopes that are 8", 12" and 14" in diameter.
  • Schmidt-Cassegrain and catadioptric refer to how light is gathered. This type of scope uses mirrors and lenses to form the images. (See table below for telescope comparisons)

The observatory building was manufactured by Observadome in Jackson, Mississippi. It is five meters in diameter and has a rotating domed roof.

On June 18, 2009, The RPSEC observatory was struck by lightning and the Bechtel Telescope was damaged beyond repair. Through generosity of the company and support from insurance, a new Bechtel Telescope was purchased and installed in May 2010.

Visit our sister observatory, the Boyd Observatory

See pictures of the observatory installation and the telescope installation.

Telescope Light Gathering Comparison
Reflector Main light gathering source is a mirror
Refractor Main light gathering source is a lens
Catadioptric Uses both mirrors and lenses to gather light

There is a good description of how telescopes work at Meade Instruments Corporation.

This page has some diagrams to help explain how the telescopes work.