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Public Outreach

UVA Astronomy Outreach


In addition to educating undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Virginia, the Astronomy Department has an Education and Public Outreach program that addresses astronomy and science education for the general public, families, and students in grades K-12.

The Leander McCormick Observatory

  • Public Nights: McCormick Observatory is open to the public on the first and third Friday evenings of every month. For a schedule and more information, please see our Observatory Public Night Program page or call the public night information line (434) 243-1885.
  • Friends of McCormick Observatory Program: A non-profit membership organization to promote and support the education and public outreach activities of the Department of Astronomy. Members are eligible for a number of benefits. Please contact Ed Murphy for more information.
  • Group Visits: For the safety of our guests, we cannot host groups during our public nights. The McCormick Observatory hosts educational groups on the second and fourth Fridays of each month. To schedule your group, fill out the online form (here). You will be contacted by our office to confirm your reservation. Educational groups include scouting troops, school groups (K-12), senior groups, and more!
  • Heidi's Nights: During months with a fifth Friday, the Charlottesville Astronomical Society hosts Heidi's Nights, evenings geared towards kids K-12 and their families. Different stations are set up to explore and learn. To register, email Steve Layman:
    • March 29, 2024; 9:00-10:30PM
    • May 31, 2024; 9:00-10:30PM
    • August 30, 2024; 9:00-10:30PM
    • November 29, 2024; 7:00-9:30PM

Public Night Program at Fan Mountain Observatory

EDIT: Spring 2024 Public Night canceled due to ongoing construction.

Fan Mountain Observatory is open to the public twice a year, once in April and once in October. For a schedule and more information, please see our Observatory Public Night Program page or call the public night information line (434) 243-1885.

Dark Skies, Bright Kids

Dark Skies, Bright Kids is an after school astronomy program for elementary students in rural schools in Albemarle County offered by Whitney Richardson and many of our graduate students.

Girls Exploring the Universe

The Girls Exploring the Universe (GETU) program offers a free, exciting, on‐campus summer experience at the University of Virginia for middle school girls designed to increase their interest and curiosity in astronomy and science. GETU is free of charge to students who are selected to participate.

Additional Programs

  • Astronomy on Tap, Charlottesville: Founded by Trey Wenger, a previous graduate student, these events are held at local breweries on the first Monday of every odd-numbered month. It is now organized primarily by Matt Pryal, previously a graduate student at UVA and currently an assistant professor in the Astronomy Department. The organizing group also consists of members of the Astronomy department, the nearby NRAO, and Charlottesville Astronomical Society.
  • Heidi Winter Endowment Fund for Education and Public Outreach Programs of the McCormick Observatory: provides a permanent source of support for the educational programs of the McCormick Observatory and will enable the Observatory to expand its educational and outreach programs. This fund honors the memory of Heidi Winter, a member of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society, a founding Friend of McCormick Observatory, and former executive secretary to the Director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, who passed away in 2012. Please contact Ed Murphy for more information.
  • Undergraduate Education: With over 1000 students enrolling each year, the Astronomy Department’s introductory astronomy ASTR 1210/1220/1230 sequence is the most popular science sequence at the University of Virginia. See our Course Offerings page for a list of our current classes.
NK Spelman

UVA Professor Nitya Kallivayalil (center) with UVA-Spelman REU program students Zaniyah Dock (left) and Temi Olatinwo (right).