Facilities and Equipment

The Observatory Complex

The observatory is built at one of the highest points on the Claytor Nature Study Center property (approximately 960 feet above sea level) and benefits from a virtually unobstructed view of the entire night sky along the full horizon.

The facility is comprised of a single-story, five-room, approximately 700-square-foot structure with an insulated control room, a storage room, two restrooms, and a small kitchenette. In addition to this, the facility includes a 384-square-foot observation deck equipped with twelve piers for mounting smaller telescopes and a 177-square-foot dome observatory housing the primary telescope.  

The Margaret G. L. Gilbert Telescope

The primary instrument for the Lynchburg College Observatory is an RC Optical Systems 20-inch (.51-meter) Truss Ritchey-Chrétien telescope, a powerful research-quality scope whose particular optical design is the same one used on every major telescope in use today (including the Hubble Space Telescope). More information on this specific design can be found on the RC Optical Systems website.

The Gilbert Telescope is equipped with a charge-coupled device (CCD) camera, allowing for exceptional astrophotography that can be used for research and teaching purposes.

The telescope is connected to the College campus via Internet, allowing College faculty to conduct astronomical research in conjunction with other regional colleges and universities.

This installation of this instrument provides Lynchburg College with one of the best-equipped observatories in the state.

Secondary Telescopes

The observatory also houses six Celestron CPC 800 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes for use in the Roll-Off Roof Observatory and Observation Deck.

Perfect for observing the moon and planets as well as deep space phenomena, these portable telescopes are the observatory's primary teaching instruments.

Equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) Technology and electronic digital compasses, the scopes are easy to set up and use. Additional features include Fastar-compatible optics that allow for 35-mm astrophotography and remote software that allows users to control the telescope from a PC or laptop computer.

The observatory is proud to show you the night sky through one of our newest instruments, the StarGazer 13.1-inch Dobsonian telescope.  This large aperture and field of view instrument offers stunning views of the deep night sky.

Solar telescope

Solar Telescopes

The observatory houses three Coronado Instruments Personal Solar Telescopes (PSTs). These small, lightweight, easy-to-use instruments will enable the observatory to be used for daytime as well as nighttime observations.

Equipped with a 400mm focal length 40mm aperture f/10 refractor with an integrated full aperture hydrogen alpha solar filter, the PSTs will allow observers to see detailed views of the sun and specific surface prominences, including sunspots and solar flares.

Astronomical Binoculars

Ten pairs of tripod-mounted Celestron Ultima 9 x 63 mm binoculars are also available for use as teaching tools for wide-angle views of the night sky.

These binoculars allow students and astronomy enthusiasts to locate bright images of faint deep space objects that can then be viewed using one of the observatory's telescopes.

Among the various phenomena easily seen in the 5-degree-wide field of view of these instruments are the star clouds of Sagittarius, the spiral galaxy in the constellation Andromeda, and open star clusters of the Wild Duck and the Beehive.