Vermont Observatories in Small Towns | Happy Vermont

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Vermont Observatories in Small Towns

Bill Vinton taught high school physics and astronomy in St. Johnsbury for 40 years. These days, he’s secretary and treasurer of the Northeast Kingdom Astronomy Foundation, home to the Northern Skies Observatory—one of at least nine working Vermont observatories across the state.

Its origin story is basically this: “Two retired guys in Peacham—David Magnus and Sidney Wanzer—would go on walks and talk about their mutual love of astronomy,” says Vinton. “They wanted to build an observatory.”

In 2012, they did exactly that, raising money and opening the observatory near the Peacham Elementary School in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

In addition to the Northern Skies Observatory, other Vermont observatories include ones in Hinesburg, Manchester, South Pomfret, MorrisvilleMiddlebury College, Castleton college, St. Michael’s CollegeBennington College and Stellafane in Springfield.

Long after the eclipse, you can still get your solar system fix at star parties, special viewings and educational events hosted by astronomy clubs and local observatories. (More on that later.)


-An observatory was built in 1908 at Hildene in Manchester. Photo courtesy of Hildene.

Two Observatories in One Town

One of Vermont’s oldest observatories was built in 1908 on the Hildene estate of Robert Todd Lincoln in Manchester. Although not currently in use, the observatory and its 1909 telescope can be seen while visiting Hildene—The Lincoln Family Home.

Just up the road from Hildene is the Lu French Observatory at Burr and Burton Academy (BBA) in Manchester.

It was built in 1928 as a gift to the school from Mary Harlan Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln’s widow. According to a 1928 Manchester Journal article, she wanted the BBA observatory to resemble the one at Hildene as much as possible.

The school’s observatory originally housed her late husband’s eight-foot telescope—considered the finest in the world at the time. (The telescope was gifted back to Hildene in 1992.)

Today, BBA’s Lu French Observatory, used by the school’s astronomy club, houses modern telescopes and hosts star parties for the school community.

“We average about one star party a month when school is in session, and it’s a real crowd pleaser,” says BBA English teacher Scott Clausen. 

On the day of the eclipse, the BBA club’s astronomy enthusiasts will likely head north toward the path of totality.

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-The Lu French Observatory at Burr and Burton Academy (BBA) was built in the 1920s. Photo by Mary Francis.

Astronomy Club Viewing Events on April 8

At least two Vermont astronomy clubs are offering public viewing opportunities during the eclipse on April 8.

The Southern Vermont Astronomy Group will have a telescope set up on Hoisington Field in Perkinsville (weather permitting) so the public can observe the solar eclipse between 2 and 4:30 p.m. Totality starts just before 3:30 p.m.

The Northeast Kingdom Astronomy Foundation will host a solar eclipse watch party at the Northern Skies Observatory between 2 and 5 p.m. Totality starts just before 3:30 p.m. The event will have SAFE telescopes and solar eclipse glasses available for a small donation.

Find more eclipse events in Vermont


-The Porter Turret Telescope, constructed in 1930 on Breezy Hill near the Stellafane Clubhouse, is a National Historic Landmark in Springfield.

Beyond the Eclipse

During the year, you’ll find star parties, events, and even a telescope makers convention in Vermont.

Up All-Night Star Party
May 31-June 1, 2024
Breezy Hill Road, Springfield
The Springfield Telescope Makers want to share their love for astronomy and telescope-making by hosting a public open house and star party. 

The 2024 Stellafane Convention
Aug. 1-4, 2024
Breezy Hill Road, Springfield
Registration opens in early May. Learn more about the history of Stellafane.

Visit these astronomy groups’ and observatory websites for upcoming events.

Southern Vermont Astronomy Group

Northeast Kingdom Astronomy Foundation

Springfield Telescope Makers

Vermont Astronomical Society

Lamoille County Stargazers

Green Mountain Astronomers
Rutland County

Horizons Observatory at Prosper Valley School
South Pomfret

-Main photo: Courtesy of the Northeast Kingdom Astronomy Foundation.

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Do you know of other observatories or astronomy clubs? Email me at [email protected].


Vermont stargazing stellafane
-The Stellafane Clubhouse in Springfield.




Addison County, Bennington County, Caledonia County, Chittenden County, Featured, Lamoille County, Rutland County, Windsor County
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