Frequently Asked Questions

When is the facility open?

Lookout Observatory opened its doors to the public for the first time November 14, 2014. Public events will continue to be scheduled. Registration is required to attend. To do so, please fill out the Lookout Observatory Registration Form online.

Why is this facility needed?

The facility provides students of all ages and the public hands-on experience with telescopes and related state-of-the-art instrumentation, and the experience of first-hand observations, for which there is no substitute. The new facility also provides a laboratory for astronomical research and students with research experience.

How will the community have access to the Observatory?

UNC Asheville Physics Department faculty members work with K-12 teachers to coordinate trips to the facility by school classes and groups, as well as online access to remote viewing sessions. The Astronomy Club of Asheville offers its members access to the facility on a regular basis; membership in the Club is $25 annually for individuals and $30 for families. UNC Asheville also will host periodic no-cost guided star-gazing sessions for the public. Check the Public Access webpage for information about our next event.

Parking at the observatory is limited to faculty conducting research and users requiring handicap access. Classes and programs using the facility will use existing campus parking; students and guests will be transported to and from the site by campus shuttle. Nut Hill Road will remain gated and closed to other traffic.

Where did funding for this project come from?

Lookout Observatory, which includes a retractable roof that opens to facilitate observations via mounted, computer-controlled telescopes, was built with a $546,000 donation from the Astronomy Club of Asheville. The club also provided one of the two 14-inch telescopes; the university already owned the second telescope. UNC Asheville is responsible for costs of ongoing maintenance of all academic buildings on our campus, including the observatory.

Why did trees need to be removed? What sustainability practices are being followed?

The 65-acre UNC Asheville property that is now home to the laboratory/observatory contains second- and third-growth woods, including some invasive species. UNC Asheville needed to remove trees on a small portion of that property.

By siting the facility at the end of an existing road in the university’s north property and not extending the road, UNC Asheville minimized the number of trees removed during construction of the building. For paneling on the interior of the new facility, the university used wood harvested from trees that had to be removed elsewhere on campus.

Additional tree removal was needed for observatory sightlines. The location near the ridgeline of a hill helps reduce, but doesn’t eliminate, the need for additional tree removal.

UNC Asheville followed a process of removing trees only as needed, with great selectivity. As trees continue to grow in the woods on UNC Asheville’s North property, the university will trim and, if necessary, remove trees that grow tall enough to interfere with astronomical observations.

Tree removal near Lookout Observatory was and will be conducted using best practices to prevent soil erosion and water drainage problems. Wood from trees removed will be used in UNC Asheville campus buildings wherever possible.

UNC Asheville has planted more than 1,000 trees on university property over the past 20 years. The university is developing plans to plant native holly and dogwood species – which won’t grow tall enough to hamper astronomical observation – near the observatory.

Will the public have access to the hiking trails on the property?

Now that tree removal has been completed, university neighbors are welcome to use the hiking trails.

Where can I ask more questions?

If you have further questions, you may email lookout@unca.edu or call the observatory at 828.250.3958.