Cameron Park Rotary Community Observatory
Photo © Adale van Dam
The Community Observatory brings the galaxy to life in the foothills!
The Cameron Park Rotary Community Observatory is located off the Highway 50 corridor, 30 miles East of the California State Capitol and 40 miles West of Lake Tahoe in Placerville. Situated on top of a hill, away from the noise and lights of the city, the observatory, designed with a roll-back roof, offers a clear view of the universe when looking through either of the two 14-inch automated Celestron telescopes.
All visits to the observatory are hosted by knowledgeable, volunteer docents who are passionate about astronomy. During hours of operation, docents provide sky "tours" as well as interesting information about telescopes, cosmic events and celestial phenomena. The observatory sits adjacent to Folsom Lake College's El Dorado Center and the El Dorado County Office of Education. Due to its scientific and educational value, schools, Scout groups and other community based clubs are encouraged to participate. The observatory provides in-class programs for K-12 students as well as evening school sight visits. During the day, there are also programs which provide safe solar viewing. The observatory hosts numerous public events such as National Astronomy Day and solar activities, and the local newspaper runs a bi-monthly feature, "Astronomy News," authored by members of the observatory docent team.
Before sundown travelers may enjoy visiting nearby Placerville’s historic Main Street, which includes numerous landmarks from the gold discovery era, as well as eclectic art galleries, shopping, dining, and local music. During the Fall season the enchanting agricultural farm trails of "Apple Hill," also located nearby, wind breathtakingly through more than 50 farms, bakeries and wineries. For more details and hours of operation click here.
Opened in August 2006, the observatory was a gift to the community from the Cameron Park Rotary Club in celebration of Rotary International's 100th Anniversary. Operation of this unique community resource (funded and built by Rotary Club members) is a collaborative opportunity for the Cameron Park Rotary Club, the El Dorado County Office of Education, the Los Rios Community College District and other enthusiastic community agencies. Studying the night sky is both educational and awe-inspiring.
How to Participate:
Visits to the observatory are free of charge and there are ways to prepare for your visit. Dressing appropriately for the weather is important. Binoculars are good for looking at comets, so visitors can bring them along. Sky charts and astronomy books also enhance the experience. Penlights or SMALL flashlights are helpful and will not inhibit night vision. Visitors are welcome to bring a small telescope to set up outside of the observatory building. Bottled water is appropriate, but other beverages and snacks are not encouraged.
The observatory is located behind the Folsom Lake College's El Dorado Center campus, in Placerville. Visitors may park (free of charge) in the West parking lot. A short solar-lit pathway leads from the parking lot to the main building where the observatory is fully accessible to disabled visitors. School groups and clubs are encouraged to contact the El Dorado County Office of Education to arrange special demonstrations and observing sessions. On public evenings (Friday through Sunday), no reservations are necessary, although it is a good idea to call ahead if there is cloudy or inclement weather. Group tours can also be arranged by contacting the El Dorado Center of Folsom Lake College at (530) 642-5682. For more information about hours and current events, visit the observatory website at www.communityobservatory.com
Weather conditions determine hours of operation during rainy conditions. Visitors may call (530) 304-5707 for current information about the observatory hours of operation.
Seasons Open: Year-round; Friday, Saturday and Sunday Evenings (weather permitting)
Hours Open: Nov - April: Open 7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. May - October: Open 8:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. Special weekday (Monday - Thursday) sessions can be pre-arranged.
The observatory is fully accessible to disabled visitors. There is parking right at the site. For disabled access on Public Evenings, call (530) 344-5707 during operating hours on the night of intended visit.