The Thacher Observatory

The Thacher Observatory

In December of 2016, the newly renovated Thacher Observatory was unveiled. The Thacher Observatory houses a PlaneWave CDK-700 telescope which has a 0.7m aperture and a fully robotic dome. The observatory operates in a fully automated fashion using a flexible dispatch scheduler.

The transformation of the Observatory into a state-of-the-art, research-grade facility was part of a wider expansion of the astronomy program at Thacher and the result of years of hard work and vision by Dr. Chris Vyhnal, the chair of the Science DepartmentDr. Jon Swift, director of the Thacher Observatory, and many others.

The Observatory has a long and interesting history stretching back to 1965 when UCLA and Caltech brought the facility to campus as part of a Summer Science Program for high-achieving students hosted at Thacher. After the departure of the SSP and through the passing of years, the observatory went into disuse. But since its renovation, it has offered a new generation of students in astronomy, data science, and computer science courses profound applied-learning opportunities once again. Among these opportunities is the chance to contribute to Dr. Swift’s ongoing NASA-funded research of eclipsing binaries and transiting exoplanets, which he is undertaking in collaboration with colleagues at the Boston University and Harvard.


Thacher has an active astronomical research program with students working at the forefront of astrophysics research. This research is done in collaboration with partners across the globe including teams at the Boston University, the University of California at Santa Cruz, Harvard, and the Las Cumbres Observatory. We are dedicated to providing an authentic experience where students engage fully with pressing problems in astronomy and build breadth and depth of understanding while gaining invaluable experience working in small teams toward meaningful goals.

For information about current and past research projects, visit the observatory website.

List of 1 members.

  • Photo of Jonathan Swift

    Dr. Jonathan Swift 

    Mathematics, Physics, and Astronomy Teacher and Director of the Thacher Observatory
    University of California, Berkeley - PhD
    University of California, Los Angeles - BS
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