A housing development in southeast Fort Collins has a very unique amenity to offer: the Stargazer Observatory, an astronomy laboratory operated by Front Range Community College (FRCC). Although students of FRCC most commonly use the observatory, it is also available to the public astronomer, whether pro or novice. It is an incredible way to observe so many of the impressive things not even close to being visible by the human eye.
The housing development, aptly named Observatory Village, is located just east of Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins. You can find the observatory’s dome right next to the community swimming pool. Stargazer Observatory is the result of a partnership between FRCC and Village Homes in order to provide students a place to study astronomy. It is specifically operated by the Astronomy Department of FRCC’s Larimer Campus, as is the Sunlight Peak Observatory found on campus.
The Stargazer Observatory features state-of-the-art equipment and software and provides incredible astronomical viewing. At the Observatory you will find:
- A 14-inch Celestron C-14 telescope
- A Bisque Paramount ME mounting system
- The Sky 6 Software containing a database of over 30 million pieces of information
- Additional FRCC telescopes that may be set up on the viewing balcony
Among the pieces of information found in the software’s database are pieces that have been gathered from the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., and also from the Hubble Space Telescope Guide Star Catalog. Highlights of things seen by the telescope include stars and constellations, the moon, planets, and nebulae. In the past, people have also been able to see meteors, the lunar eclipse, and clusters.
For the community, Stargazer Observatory typically hosts monthly open houses, or community nights, on the third Saturday of every month. Times will vary with the season, but currently open houses are held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. FRCC’s other observatory, Sunlight Peak, also hosts community nights, but those fall on the first Friday of each month. Bear in mind that community nights are subject to weather. Stargazers are not able to see much when it’s completely overcast. Opening the dome can also be affected by wind and cold temperatures, so make sure to check if the observatory will be open before heading that way. The Stargazer Observatory website (www.stargazerobservatory.com) is consistently posting updates. You may also find updates at Sunlight Peak’s Facebook page. Also important to remember, the dome is not heated, so make sure to dress appropriately.
For more information about community nights, hours, or answers to general questions, contact the Director of Stargazer Observatory, Andy Caldwell or Dave Zamzow through the information page on the Stargazer Observatory website. Stargazer Observatory is located at 3733 Galileo Drive in Fort Collins.
Homeowners and renters of a residence within Observatory Village have the unique privilege of reserving the Stargazer Observatory Clubhouse for special occasions. Residents are required to pay a $350 refundable damage deposit, in addition to meeting other strict criteria listed in their rental agreement.