The observatory was opened in 1984 and is an especially valuable facility for a small liberal arts college. Designed by Woodburn and O'Neil of Des Moines, the building is a 38-foot by 55-foot structure rising 26 feet to the top of the dome. It houses a 24-inch Cassegrain reflecting telescope and two computer systems: the first controls the telescope and the second accommodates data acquisition and analysis and can be used to store television images. Besides its prime function as an instructional and research tool, the observatory is also a facility for public viewing of astronomical phenomena under staff supervision. The observatory is named for the late Grant O. Gale, one of the College's longest-serving and most distinguished teachers who held the S.S. Williston Chair in Physics and served as the curator of the Physics Historical Museum for many years.
The Grant O. Gale Observatory is located at the extreme north end of the campus. It is reached by a road located just to the west of the tennis courts on 10th Avenue.