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 7 members.

  • Photo of Christopher Vyhnal

    Dr. Christopher Vyhnal 

    Science Department; Chemistry and Geology Teacher
    Colgate University - BA
    University of Tennessee - MS
    Dartmouth College - PhD
  • Photo of Edgar Arceo

    Mr. Edgar Arceo 

    Psychology Teacher; Los Padres Dorm Head
    Kenyon College - Bachelors of Arts (B.A)
    University of Pennsylvania - Masters of Science in Education (M.S.Ed)
    Middlebury College - Masters of Arts (M.A.)
  • Photo of Megan Carney

    Ms. Megan Carney 

    Director of Student Life
    Princeton University - AB
    Harvard University - EdM
  • Photo of Nicole Chung

    Ms. Nicole Chung 

  • Photo of Heather Grant

    Ms. Heather Grant 

    Science Department Chair, Biology and Chemistry Teacher
    Mount Holyoke College - BA
    Montana State University - MS
  • Photo of Ami Robinson

    Ms. Ami Robinson 

    Prescott College - B.S.
    Prescott College - B.A.
  • 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
Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.