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MCCORMICK AND FAN MOUNTAIN OBSERVATORIES
(Rev. August 09, 2011)
The Leander McCormick Observatory is located on Mount Jefferson at the edge of
the University of Virginia Grounds. It is found at latitude
. The observatory is 866 ft (264 m) above sea level.
This observatory has three telescopes which are described briefly below.
Other details are given in this handbook.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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 is on Mount Oliver in the Fan Mountains;
. 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.
Fan Mountain Observatory has three telescopes which are described
briefly below. Other details are given in this handbook.
- 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.
- 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..
- 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.
- Station House: This building contains a darkroom,
mechanical shop, restrooms, living quarters, and other support
facilities for the Observatory.
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
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
Directions to Fan Mountain
Layout of Fan Mountain Observatory
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