University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Observatory Public Night Program

Public Night Information Line:  (434) 243-1885

UPDATE (April14, 2022)

The McCormick Public Night Program will resume starting Friday, May 6, 2022. Please read below for more details, as our procedures have changed.

McCormick Observatory Public Night Program


Leander McCormick Observatory is normally open on the FIRST and THIRD Friday nights of every month (except holidays) year round. 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.

To limit overcrowding, registration is required on our Eventbrite website. Tickets remain FREE. You will be asked to provide your name, contact details, the number of visitors in your party, and the number of vehicles you will be parking. We are currently limiting the number of visitors to 60 people and 30 cars per night; 30 people and 15 cars from 9pm-10pm, and 30 people and 15 cars from 10pm-11pm. Registration is first come, first served. Once a public night is at capacity, you have the option to select other dates. If you have questions about the Eventbrite, please call our office during normal business hours.

Access our Eventbrite here.

The Observatory is normally open 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).

McCormick Observatory is located in Charlottesville on the western edge of the UVA grounds (click here for directions).

Please Note: Owing to the crowd size, groups cannot be accommodated at McCormick Public Nights. If you would like to bring an edcuational group to McCormick Observatory, please read the section below concerning group visits.

Fan Mountain Observatory Public Nights

Fan Mountain Observatory is normally open to the public twice a year, once in April and once in October. The Fan Mountain Observing Station is located 13 miles south of Charlottesville at the end of a 3 mile long gravel road (click here for directions). See the calendar above for the exact dates for a particular year. Tickets, which are free, are required for Fan Mountain public nights (except for Friends of the Leander McCormick Observatory). 

To request tickets for Fan Mountain Observatory Public Nights, send a self-addressed stamped envelope, along with the number of tickets requested (up to 6), to:

Fan Mountain Public Night
P.O. Box 400325
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4325

Requests for Tickets are only accepted at certain times of the year:

  • For the April Fan Mountain Public Night, send requests starting March 1st (the supply of tickets is usually exhausted by the 3rd week of March).
  • For the October Fan Mountain Public Night, send requests starting September 1st (the supply of tickets is usually exhausted by the 3rd week of September).

Please Note: Owing to the demand for tickets, groups cannot be accommodated at Fan Mountain

All requests must be accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope or tickets cannot be sent. You must also list the number of tickets (up to 6) that you need (individual groups larger than 6 cannot be accommodated at Fan Mountain Public Nights).

Friends of the Leander McCormick Observatory do NOT need tickets for Fan Mountain Public Nights. The staff will have a list of Friends at the Observatory.

Tickets will be mailed out 2-3 weeks prior to the public night, on a first come, first served basis until the supply is exhausted. Again, only requests with a self-address stamped envelope, and a number (up to 6) of tickets requested can be accommodated.

Group visits to McCormick Observatory

UPDATE (April 14, 2022): The McCormick Public Group Program will resume starting Friday, April 8, 2022. Please read below for more details, as our registration process has changed.

The Leander McCormick Observatory is open to educational groups with advanced reservations on the SECOND and FOURTH Friday nights of every month. Groups must fill out an online form to schedule a visit. PLEASE NOTE: Filling out a form does NOT confirm your visit. After submitting your form, we will be notified with your details. You will receive a phone call to the number you provide within 3 business days. We will confirm your visit details with you, after which we will confirm your reservation.  If you cannot access the Google Form, please email to contact our office. Group nights are reserved quickly; it is advisable to reserve a group night at several months in advance.

Click here to access the Google Form

Group Nights are intended for educational groups, schools, scouting organizations, hobby groups, assisted living facilities, etc. They are not available to families for private tours. Family units of up to 6 people can register for a public night (see above). If you have more than 6 people in your family, please contact us for guidance. If you are interested in additional access to the observatory, we invite you to join the Friends of McCormick Observatory

The Astronomy Department can be contacted at (434) 924-7494, or by email at