Fan Mountain Observatory

The University of Virginia operates the Fan Mountain Observatory, about 15 miles south of Charlottesville. The Observatory was established in the mid-1960's as a new, dark site away from the light pollution produced by the growth of the Charlottesville area. The Observatory was used extensively for research up until the late-1980's. In recent years, extensive hardware upgrades and instrumentation efforts have transformed the observatory into a more modern research facility currently capable of optical and infrared imaging and spectroscopy.

More detailed information about the telescope and available instrumentation can be found by following the links below.




1.0-meter (40-inch) Astrometric Reflector:

The telescope is an astrometric reflector, originally designed for use with photographic plates as part of UVa’s ongoing tradition of precision astrometry. In recent years, however, extensive hardware upgrades and instrumentation efforts have transformed the observatory into a more modern research facility capable of optical CCD imaging and stellar spectroscopy.

Instrument Capabilities






0.8-meter (31-inch) Tinsley Reflector

The telescope is a general use reflector originally used with photomultipliers and a photographic plate specrograph. Recently, extensive hardware upgrades and instrumentation efforts were completed, transforming the observatory into a more modern research facility capable of IR imaging and grism spectroscopy.

Instrument Capabilities







0.6-meter (24-inch) Rapid Response Robotic Telescope (RRRT)

The telescope is currently under construction by Norfolk State University. It will be used to carry out followup photometry and polarimetry of the optical afterglows of Gamma-ray Bursts as well as the study of other astronomical transient phenomena, including compact stars, near-earth objects (NEOs), Blazars and searches for supernovae and exo-planets.

Instrument Capabilities (PDF)







0.3-meter (10-inch) Cooke Astrograph Refractor

The telescope is a wide field instrument with a 10 degree field of view using photographic plates. A gift from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, it was originally used at the Leander McCormick Observatory in the 1930’s by Alexander Vyssotksy. He used it with an objective prism and produced one of the first unbiased catalogues of nearby M dwarfs. It was moved to Fan Mountain from McCormick Observatory in the 1960’s.







Observer Links

General Links