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

Observatory Public Night Program

Public Night Information Line:  (434) 243-1885

COVID Update - August 20, 2021

Until further notice, all Public Night and Educational Group programs at McCormick Observatory are canceled. We are taking this move to protect the health of our visitors, students, faculty, and staff. We will reassess the situation when isolation recommendations are relaxed and when the University returns to normal operations. We will post updates on this page and on our public night information line, (434) 243-1885. The Fan Mountain Public Night scheduled for October 2021 has also been canceled.

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 (see COVID update above). 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.

No tickets are required and advanced reservations are not necessary.

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) (see COVID update above).

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 (see COVID update above). 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 (no ticket requests are being fulfilled; see COVID update above):

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

The Leander McCormick Observatory is open to educational groups with advanced reservations on the SECOND and FOURTH Friday nights of every month. Groups must call (434) 924-7494 to schedule a visit. Group nights are reserved quickly; it is advisable to reserve a group night at least several months in advance.

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