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

Observatory Public Night Program

Public Night Information Line:  (434) 243-1885

McCormick Observatory Public Night Program


Leander McCormick Observatory is 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 80 people and 30 cars per night; 40 people and 15 cars from 9pm-10pm, and 40 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 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.

Observatory public night programObservatory public night programObservatory public night program

Fan Mountain Observatory Public Nights

UPDATE 3/28/23: Spring 2023 Public Night has been canceled. We hope to have the next Fan Mtn Public Night in Fall 2023.

Fan Mountain Observatory is 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). 

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

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.

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 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 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 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