Solar System Ambassador

April 2, 2019

NASA Solar System Ambassador

Franklin Institute Fun Facts with Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer


For more than 40 years, Derrick Pitts has been making astronomy accessible to people of all ages with his ability to explain the universe as he sees it. The Chief Astronomer at The Franklin Institute — and NASA Solar System Ambassador — shares fun facts about one of the oldest and premier centers of science education in the U.S., where “everybody in the family has the opportunity to have a great hands-on experience with science and technology.”


  • The Franklin Institute has a piece of moon rock that was collected on Aug. 2, 1971, by astronaut David Scott. It was the last rock collected during the Apollo 15 mission and was the largest sample of the 170 pounds of rocks Scott and his crew members brought back from the moon. See it in the Space Command exhibit.

Derrick Pitts with The Franklin Institute's historic Zeiss telescope. Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB
  • The Holt & Miller Observatory— located on the roof of the museum—has a historic Zeiss Refractor, built using fabrication techniques that circumvented restrictions placed on German manufacturing as a result of WWI. The only other one like it in the U.S. is at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.


  • The Franklin Institute’s observatory is the only one on the East Coast with a telescope this size available to the general public.



Visit The Franklin Institute’s observatory during the day or at night. Derrick Pitts hosts monthly stargazing events with the 10-inch historic Zeiss refractor, four Celestron CPC 800 GPS Computerized Telescopes and 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain models. Free star maps are included.


Photo by K. Huff for PHLCVB

Learn how humans have used lenses to look up at the skies in The Franklin Institute’s gallery of antique microscopes and telescopes.


And visit the Scope Lobby outside the Space Command exhibit to see a gallery of antique microscopes and telescopes. 


The Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) is the official tourism promotion agency for the City of Philadelphia globally and the primary sales and marketing agency for the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

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