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The McCormick and Fan Mountain Observatories


MCCORMICK AND FAN MOUNTAIN OBSERVATORIES

(Rev. August 09, 2011)

The Leander McCormick Observatory

The Leander McCormick Observatory is located on Mount Jefferson at the edge of the University of Virginia Grounds. It is found at latitude $38^\circ
02^\prime 00^{\prime\prime}$ and longitude $78^\circ 31^\prime
24^{\prime\prime}$. The observatory is 866 ft (264 m) above sea level.

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This observatory has three telescopes which are described briefly below. Other details are given in this handbook.

  1. 26-inch Clark refractor: The 26-inch telescope has a 26-inch diameter lens with a focal length of 32.5 ft (9.9 m). Its field of view is about 0.75 of a degree with photographic plates. This telescope has been used primarily for astrometric observations and the observatory plate file contains over 140,000 plates which were taken between 1914 and 1995 for the purpose of determining stellar motions and distances.

  2. 6-inch Clark refractor: The 6-inch telescope is an Alvan Clark refractor with a focal length of 1.83m. It is housed in a small roll-off roof observatory (the Doghouse) on the grounds of McCormick Observatory next to the 26-inch dome.

  3. 10-inch Meade: The 10-inch telescope is a Meade LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with a focal length of 2.5m. It is housed in the Doghouse next to the 26-inch dome.

  4. Observatory Building: This building contains a small museum, lecture room, observer's room, plate vault, restroom, and other support facilities for the observatory.

The Fan Mountain Observatory

The Fan Mountain Observatory is on Mount Oliver in the Fan Mountains; latitude $37^\circ 52^\prime 41^{\prime\prime}$, longitude $78^\circ
41^\prime 34^{\prime\prime}$. Fan Mt. is 1825 feet (556 m) above sea level and 1200 feet above the surrounding terrain. The observatory is located near Covesville, VA about 16 miles south of Charlottesville. The turn-off from Rt. 29 is about 13.5 miles south of I 64. From Rt. 29 there is a 3.5 mile gravel road to the top. See map. Please exercise care when crossing the railroad tracks as the line is often used by fast moving freight trains and there is no signal. Always come to a complete stop before crossing the tracks. The road to the Observatory is narrow and winding and to avoid traffic jams on the Fan Mountain Public Night, the road will be up only from 7:15-9:00 p.m., and down after 9:15 p.m. only.

Warm clothing should be worn for trips to Fan Mt. since it may be much colder and windier on the Mountain than in town and you will be outside (or in the dome) much of the time.

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Fan Mountain Observatory has three telescopes which are described briefly below. Other details are given in this handbook.

  1. 40-inch astrometric reflector: The 40-inch telescope has a 43-inch diameter primary mirror, a 20-inch diameter secondary mirror, and a 40-inch diameter corrector lens to provide a stable, large-field telescope for precise measurements of the motions and distances of nearby stars. It has also been used for studies of galaxies and quasars. Its field of view is about 0.67 of a degree (somewhat larger than the full moon) with 10-inch photographic plates. The field of view using the SITe 2048 CCD is approximately 12.5 arcmin on a side. It is also equipped with a fiber-fed low resolution spectrograph system, used to study the motions and metal abundances of giant stars in the Galactic halo.

  2. 31-inch Tinsley reflector: The 31-inch telescope is a standard Cassegrain reflector with a 31-inch primary mirror and an 8.5-inch secondary mirror. It is primarily used for near infra-red astronomy..

  3. 10-inch astrograph: The astrograph is a wide-field camera for photographing large sections of the sky at one time. Over 900 red-dwarf stars have been discovered with this instrument.

  4. Station House: This building contains a darkroom, mechanical shop, restrooms, living quarters, and other support facilities for the Observatory.

Public Night at the McCormick and Fan Mountain Observatories

McCormick Observatory is open to the public the first and third Friday of each month. No tickets or reservations are necessary. Groups must make special arrangements. Twice a year there is a public night at Fan Mountain, once in April, and again in October. Tickets (which are free) are required for the Fan Mountain Public Night. Call 924-7494 for details.

Department of Astronomy, University of Virginia

The McCormick and Fan Mountain Observatories are operated by the faculty and staff of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Virginia. For general information about the Astronomy Department, you may consult the World Wide Web URL address of the department's home page: http://www.astro.virginia.edu.

Figure 1: Directions to Fan Mountain
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Figure 2: Layout of Fan Mountain Observatory
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