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Public Nights at McCormick Observatory

Public Night Information Line: (434) 243-1885


Due to ongoing construction at the McCormick Observatory, we must limit the number of attendees for each public night. Starting in June 2024, only 25 guests per hour may attend, a total of 50 guests per night.

Summer 2024 public nights are available to sign up on a separate page, linked below. The standard page will not show summer 2024 dates. You must use the new link to sign up for dates in June, July, and August 2024. In the fall, we will go back to the original link.

Summer 2024: Register Here

In an effort to welcome as many guests as possible, groups are limited to 4 people. Larger groups can be accommodated in the fall. Programming will be the same, detailed below. 

If you have any questions, please email or call 434-924-7494.

McCormick Observatory Doghouse


McCormick Observatory Public Night Program

Leander McCormick Observatory is open on the FIRST and THIRD Friday nights of every month (except holidays) year round. Each visit is from 9:00-11:00 p.m. during daylight saving time (mid-March to early November) and 7:00-9:00 p.m. during Eastern Standard Time (early November to mid-March). Visitors can view celestial objects through the historic 26-inch McCormick Refractor and other smaller telescopes (weather permitting), tour the Observatory, hear a presentation by an astronomer, and see the exhibits. All faculty, postdocs and graduate students participate through a rotating schedule, so visitors will hear a unique talk each visit!

To limit overcrowding, registration is required on our Eventbrite website. However, tickets remain FREE. You will be asked to provide your name, contact details, and the number of visitors in your party (up to 5). We are currently limiting the number of visitors to 120 people and 30 cars per night; 60 people and 15 cars in the first slot, and 60 people and 15 cars in the second slot. Registration is first come, first served. Once a public night is at capacity, you have the option to join the waitlist or select other dates. If you have questions about the Eventbrite, please email or call our office during normal business hours. After reserving spaces, if you find you cannot attend, please use Eventbrite to cancel your reservation and return your tickets. We have a long waitlist for every Public Night, so releasing unused tickets will allow the next person on the waitlist to attend.

Register Here

Please note: Due to the crowd size, groups cannot be accommodated at McCormick Public Nights. If you would like to bring an educational group to McCormick Observatory, please visit the Group Visits Page for information regarding educational group visits.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Planning your Visit 

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How does registration work?

You may select one of two timeslots. Each one is the same in content and experience. Please do not select both timeslots.

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I never seem to get tickets... When does registration open?

Registration for an upcoming month is released on the 1st of the month prior. For example, dates for August are released July 1, September dates released August 1, and so on. If the 1st of the month falls on a weekend or holiday, the tickets will be released on the next business day.

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Is there a fee for registering?

Nope! All Public Nights are absolutely free. If you encounter anyone charging for registrations, contact us right away. The only platform to register for Public Nights is Eventbrite.

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I'm a UVA student. Do I need to register?

Any current undergraduate, graduate, law, or nursing student does NOT need to register to attend. You may bring one non-student guest. However, if you plan to bring a large group like a club or dorm, please contact us first. Alumni must register, regardless of graduation year.

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Do kids need registrations?

Kids are always welcome at Public Nights, and children under 4 do not require a registration. 

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What if I want to bring more than 5 people?

Please contact the UVA Astronomy Department by calling 434-924-7494 to speak with our administrative staff. Please do not make two separate orders.


At the Observatory

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Is parking available?

Yes. There is a private road that leads to the observatory, which is available for vehicle parking. We ask that you park perpendicular to the road to maximize space for all guests. You do not need a parking pass.

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Is the clear-bag policy in effect at the Observatory?

No. The clear bag policy only applies to large-scale events hosted by the University like sporting events, graduation, concerts, etc.

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Are public nights family-friendly?

Yes! The content of the lecture will be accessible to all ages and levels of astronomical expertise. 

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Are masks required at the Observatory?

As of March 28, 2022, masks are OPTIONAL for people (both UVA staff and visitors) in UVA academic buildings. Some will be available for those who prefer to wear one, but they are not required. Observatory personnel may or may not be wearing masks, as it is up to the individual's personal preference. Additionally, you are NOT required to show proof of vaccination.

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Are restrooms available?

Yes- restrooms are available to all visitors. Please note, the restroom is on the first floor of the observatory at the bottom of a steep staircase. Visitors with difficulty maneuvering stairs may have difficulty accessing the restroom.

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Can I bring food?

We ask that all visitors are respectful of the space, which includes limiting the amount of food and drink you bring the the Observatory. Drinks with a lid and food in an closed container are permitted.

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Is smoking permitted?

In accordance with UVA Policy SEC-028, smoking and vaping is not permitted in or outside the Observatory. Please refer to the policy for more information. 


Changes of Plans

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What happens in the event of bad weather?

In the event of cloudy or rainy weather, we hold our public night's rainy program. This includes a slightly longer lecture from the astronomer and time to explore the dome room and museum. While you can't look through the telescope, you still get to learn about our facilities and history.

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Are Public Nights ever canceled?

Public Nights are canceled in the event of severe weather, including thunderstorms, snow, ice, extreme cold, tornado warnings/watches, etc. Canceled visits will be communicated via email up to an hour before entry time.

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I can no longer attend an event. What should I do?

If you have tickets to a Public Night but can no longer attend, please follow the directions outlined on Eventbrite's website to return your tickets. They will then become available to the public, or folks on the waitlist.

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I registered for a public night, but I'm feeling sick/I've been exposed to COVID-19. Can I still come to a public night?

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or if you have been exposed to COVID-19, we ask that you do not come to the observatory. Please follow the directions on how to return your tickets as described above. UVA is following the CDC recommendations around COVID-19, and more can be found on their website.


Other Questions

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Can I visit McCormick Observatory on a night when there isn't a Public Night?

No- The Observatory is closed to the public on non-public nights. Accessing the grounds after dark is considered trespassing; the area is monitored by video surveillance and the observatory caretaker. If you have a special request, please call the Astronomy Department to speak with our staff. Otherwise, trespassers will be asked to leave upon arrival. These measures are in place to maintain the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and scientists.