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Jefferson College Observatory - A Unique Educational Partnership
Jefferson College and the St. Louis Astronomical Society (SLAS) are working together to develop an astronomical observatory in phases near the Softball Field on the College’s Hillsboro campus. The observatory’s purpose is to engage the community to learn more about the science of astronomy and physics. It will become the first public observatory in Jefferson County affiliated with SLAS.
Regular stargazing and solar viewing events for the public will be hosted by Jefferson College and SLAS. A variety of events such as eclipses, transits, comets, and meteor showers are expected to draw large audiences. Educators and students of K-12 schools will be encouraged to make use of the observatory for educational projects.
When complete, the observatory site will feature several buildings equipped with ready-to-use telescopes of sufficient aperture (light gathering ability) to allow for college level research and community educational events. A patio viewing area will be available to amateur astronomers and enthusiasts to explore the night sky and our closest star, the Sun.
Members of the St. Louis Astronomical Society will also use the observatory to host public and private events.
The Jefferson College Observatory will be developed in phases over several years as funding is secured.
Long-term plans include three observatory buildings to house permanently mounted telescopes and provide storage for portable astronomy equipment, a patio viewing area with electrical hookups for the public and amateur astronomers to bring their own telescopes, and a wall to protect the viewing area from vehicle headlights of those that are visiting the site. The location makes use of paved parking that already exists next to the site. Restrooms are available within a short walking distance. Potential future facilities include:
- an “observatory dome” owned by SLAS that will house a permanently mounted 16-inch telescope with a motorized dome
- a concrete patio with telescope “pads” for the public and amateur astronomers to use their personal equipment with electrical hookups to facilitate equipment set up
- concrete walkways linking the patio, parking lot, dome, and other structures
- a wall designed to shield vehicle headlights lined with benches
- buildings large enough to house telescopes ranging up to 30” in aperture and host 10-15 visitors at a time, while providing storage for portable astronomy equipment and accessories. Telescopes will be permanently mounted in each building, with motorized, “roll-off” roofs to simplify operation and reduce wear/tear of equipment.
- restroom building onsite
For security reasons, Jefferson College and SLAS personnel who are trained and authorized to use the equipment will coordinate use of facilities.
The observatory will be located north of the Jefferson College Hillsboro campus (on Farm Road) near the Softball Field and share a paved parking lot. The site will be especially attractive to astronomers from across the region due to its location outside the immediate St. Louis area and the associated light band.
Directions: From St. Louis, travel South on Highway 21 to the Jefferson College/Hayden Road exit. Turn right onto Hayden Road and then left onto Jefferson College Drive. Farm Road will be approximately one-quarter mile on the right.
The convenient location of the observatory site at Jefferson College is expected to draw visitors from Jefferson County and the surrounding region. Visitors from the St. Louis metropolitan area will find the observatory just a 30-minute drive on southbound Highway 21 from the intersection of Interstate 270 in St. Louis County.
Aim for the Stars - Free Events Open to All Ages
Designed to appeal to community members of all ages, the “Aim for the Stars” events provide an overview of plans for the Jefferson College Observatory including a site tour, training on how to read a star map, library telescope and binocular training, a meteorite exhibit, live telescope viewing, laser guided constellation tours, and previews of upcoming astronomy events of interest. Each observation night will be held in-person at the observatory site depending on weather. During each event, the dome and 16-inch telescope will be used for public viewing of planets and stars. The 1,800 sq-ft observatory patio will be available to those who want to bring their own telescopes and binoculars for family viewing. The free educational program will be led by Jefferson College faculty and SLAS members.
- All “Aim for the Stars” events will be held beginning at sunset on the first Sunday evening of each month:
- September 3
- October 1
- Special Event – October 14 eclipse - starts at 10:31 a.m. and ends at 1:27 p.m.
- November 5
- December 2
- Bonus October Nights
- October 8
- October 15
- October 22
- October 29
- Solar Event
- October 6, Noon - 2 pm
- Solar Eclipse Event
- October 14, Eclipse Start Time 10:31 am, Eclipse End Time - 1:27 pm
For programs to occur, skies must be clear or only partly cloudy. Those who attend may bring their own astronomy equipment or use a limited number of telescopes provided. In case of inclement weather or pandemic restrictions, an alternate program will be presented. For questions or additional information about the events or the Jefferson College Observatory, contact Maryanne Angliongto, Jefferson College Associate Dean – School of Math, Physics and Technology, at 636-481-3318 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funding – Timing – Construction Phasing
Jefferson College and the St. Louis Astronomical Society will partner to raise funds to develop the site. Observatory project funds will be raised from public donations, grants, and corporate sponsors. Project rollout will be determined by available funding for each phase. Each phase of the project will be functional on its own, making the observatory useful from the outset. Estimated costs of each phase will not be available until architectural drawings are complete.
Development of the observatory site is planned to proceed in the order shown on the architectural rendering design above: Structure #1 (observatory dome), followed by structure #2 (viewing patio), followed by structure #3 (headlight shield wall), followed by structures #4 and #5 (buildings with retractable roofs).
An initial amount of $38,000 in Capital Project Funds has been approved by Jefferson College and will be allocated according to the following priority order illustrated on the site plan:
- Construct platform for the SLAS-owned dome and telescope
- If funding remains, construct concrete patio for individual telescope set up/viewing
- If funding remains, construct headlight shield wall
The St. Louis Astronomical Society has purchased adequate equipment and accessories to be placed in the observatory buildings being developed.
Request a Star Party or Educational Program
Star Party events are telescope viewing sessions using SLAS volunteer's time, equipment and knowledge.
“Educational Programs” are events where we speak to your guests on a variety of topics related to astronomy including how to use a telescope and how to navigate the night sky. The program can be classroom based or outside using the night sky.
“Star Party” events and “Educational Programs” can be scheduled together or separately. If scheduled together, the classroom training might be scheduled for sunset with the group convening outside for a star party when the skies grow dark.
The St. Louis Astronomical Society (SLAS) is a non-profit organization established in 1936. SLAS is devoted to the interest and advancement of the science of astronomy. SLAS has a rich tradition of serving the community through public outreach and educational programs. SLAS does not charge for events free to the public but donations to SLAS are not discouraged. Donations for past events have ranged from $25 to $750. The average is $100.
Support the Observatory Project – Donate Today
Although the Jefferson College Observatory will be FREE to all visitors, donations of all amounts are needed to enable construction and site maintenance. Anyone interested in supporting the Observatory can make a tax-deductible donation through the Jefferson College Foundation, a separately incorporated 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose purpose is to increase resources, raise funds, and cultivate friends and partnerships to support Jefferson College and its mission. There are a variety of ways you can make an impact with a donation of any amount.
Contribute $10 and Receive a Genuine Meteorite
Ever wanted to own a piece of space…something out of this world? For an individual donation of only $10, you will receive a genuine commemorative meteorite as a thank you. Your Northwest Africa meteorite will come in a 1-1/8 inch acrylic case with a description of the origin. Each meteorite is unique and will vary in size, with most being less than 1/4 inch in size. Meteorites will be available for pick up at the Jefferson College Foundation Office, located in the Administration Building on the Hillsboro campus.
School Meteorite Packages – A One-of-a-Kind Teaching Tool
Teachers who want to make learning about stars and constellations more interesting to their students can receive a meteorite kit so that each student will have their very own meteorite.
20 Student Package - FREE for $250 Donation
Receive - 1 larger stone meteorite in display case plus 1 rare earth magnetic for testing each meteorite and 20 Northwest Africa meteorites for students. Kits will be available for pick up at the Jefferson College Foundation Office, located in the Administration Building on the Hillsboro campus.
30 Student Package - FREE for $350 Donation
Receive - 1 larger stone meteorite in display case plus 1 rare earth magnetic for testing each meteorite and 30 Northwest Africa meteorites for students. Kits will be available for pick up at the Jefferson College Foundation Office, located in the Administration Building on the Hillsboro campus.
Shoot for the Stars…Make a Donation of Any Amount Today
Please help bring astronomy and science education to our community. All donations to the Jefferson College Observatory are tax deductible and greatly appreciated. You can make a donation by clicking the button below. It will take you directly to the Jefferson College Foundation Observatory Donation page where you can make a gift of any amount.