Chandra: Loaning UvaS Telescopes to EducatoRs

A Telescope Loaner Program for Teachers


What is CLUSTER?

The University of Virginia’s Department of Astronomy is loaning telescopes to educators in Virginia and providing training on how to use them.


Teachers can borrow a kit containing one Meade 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, a tripod, and several eyepieces suitable for viewing a variety of celestial objects. Kits are loaned for three months and can be used to host an evening star party at their school, to conduct experiments with their students, and to enjoy other projects. Thanks to funding from the Friends of McCormick Observatory, the telescopes are now equipped with safe solar filters to allow daytime viewing of the Sun.


CLUSTER is managed by Steve Layman, a long time member of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society. From 2010-2013, support for this education and outreach program was provided by theNational Aeronautics and Space Administration through Chandra award GO0-11097X to Dr. Craig Sarazin of the University of Virginia, issued by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, which is operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for and on behalf of NASA under contract NAS8-03060.


Current funding is provided by the Friends of the McCormick Observatory. For information on supporting their education and outreach programs, please visit their webpage.

How To Get Involved

We have 10 telescope kits to loan out for each session. Each instructor checking out a telescope will be required to participate in a six hour orientation session which will be held at the University of Virginia’s McCormick Observatory in Charlottesville. The dates and times for these sessions for the next academic year are (all dates are Saturdays): 

Sep 10, 2016

4:00 – 10:00 p.m. 

Jan  14, 2017

3:00 –  9:00 p.m.  

The telescope kits can be transported in the trunk and/or back seat of a passenger car. Telescope kits will need to be returned no later than 3 days prior to the date of the next session. 

If you are interested in participating in the project, please send your first and second choice of session dates to Steve Layman by email. To help offset the costs of maintaining the telescopes, there is a $50 fee to borrow the telescope for the three months.

For teachers already involved with CLUSTER, there is an internal collaboration site (Collab).