Now & Then

The Chabot of today seeks to inspire visitors of all ages about the wonders of science, space and our planet Earth through a wide range of  hands-on indoors and outdoors exhibits, a tinkering space, community-based S.T.E.A.M.  events, workshops, lectures, displays, planetarium shows,  school programs, and three historic, research-level telescopes.


1882 The new superintendent of the Oakland School District, James C. Gilson, resolves that the district should have a fine telescope such as the one he had seen at Philadelphia High School.

1883 Anthony Chabot, a hydraulic engineer, funds an 8-inch Alvan Clark refracting telescope “Leah” and a new observatory, which opened in Oakland on November 24th.

1885 Anthony Chabot funds a Transit Telescope. For decades, it served as the official timekeeping station for the entire Bay Area, measuring time with its transit telescope.

1915-29 A new observatory is built on Mountain Boulevard and equipped with Leah and a new 20-inch telescope “Rachel,” with optics by John Brashear, which had debuted at the Pan Pacific Expo in San Francisco.

1960-64  A planetarium is added to the site, funded by four Oakland Rotary Clubs.

1980 The Board of Education votes to support relocation of the Observatory after its Mountain Boulevard location is determined to sit atop the Hayward Fault creep zone.

1991 Dr. Michael Reynolds becomes the first Executive Director of the Chabot Observatory & Science Center.

1993 The architectural firms of Gerson/Overstreet and Fisher-Friedman Associates are retained to design the master plan and design of the new facility.

2000 The new Chabot Space & Science Center opens to the public on August 19, featuring telescopes Leah and Rachel, a full dome Planetarium, classrooms and exhibits.

2003 Alexandra Barnett becomes Chabot’s first woman Executive Director on January 10.  A 36-inch Cassegrain reflector telescope “Nellie” opens to the public on June 21, joining “Leah” and “Rachel.”

2005 More classroom and teacher prep spaces open, built with Measure G funding.

2007 Alexander Zwissler becomes Executive Director & CEO on April 23.

2008 Chabot celebrates its 125th Anniversary with a year of public programs.

2009 Tales of the Maya Sky, a 32-minute full dome digital planetarium show is produced and receives international recognition

2015 Adam Z. Tobin becomes Executive Director & CEO on November 1.

2018 The Observation Deck expansion, funded by Measure WW, adds 3200 square feet of outdoor viewing and interactive nature/environment exhibits to the observatory complex.