Through the Fairfax County Park Authority Parktakes courses, you can take an introductory course on telescopes, learn about the Moon, or you can learn about the physics of meteors ("shooting stars") and techniques to observe them. The courses will be given at Turner Farm - Observatory Park in the new Roll-Top Observatory.


The Parktakes Turner Farm Park Astronomy courses will be held whether it is clear, cloudy, or raining. All of the courses have a presentation and talk segment. The observing portion using the Roll-Top Observatory will be held to the extent permitted by the current weather conditions.


Date/Time                                Title                                                                           Ages

Sat   1/06/2018 10:00 AM       Rainbows, Haloes and Glories                                      6-Adult - Geared for the Family

Tue  1/09/2018 7:30 PM         Introduction to Telescopes                                            6-Adult - Geared for the Family

Sat   1/13/2018 4:00 PM         Astronomy Festival                                                       3-Adult - Geared for the Family

Wed  1/17/2018 7:30 PM        Rainbows, Haloes and Glories                                     9-Adult -  Geared for the Family


Sat   2/10/2018 10:00 AM        Radio Astronomy - Listening to the Universe               9-Adult - Geared for the Family

Sat   2/17/2018 4:00 PM         Astronomy Festival                                                       3-Adult - Geared for the Family

Sat   2/24/2018 11:00 AM        Meteorites: Exploring Visitors from Space                   9-Adult - Geared for the Family


Tue   3/06/2018 7:30 PM         Introduction to Telescopes                                           9-Adult - Geared for the Family

Sat    3/10/2018 10:00 AM       The Marine Sextant                                                     9-Adult - Geared for the Family

Wed  3/14/2018 7:30 PM         Astronomical Seminar & Telescope Viewing               9-Adult - Geared for the Family

Sat    3/17/2018 4:00 PM         Astronomical Festival                                                   3-Adult - Geared for the Family

Tue   3/20/2018 7:30 PM         Family Fun Night and the Telescope                            6-Adult - Geared for the Family

You can register at:   All it takes is the sign up with Parktakes to get a member number, locate the course registration page and provide a valid email address and Visa or MasterCard.

Course Descriptions:

Astronomical Seminar and Telescope Viewing:  Instructors Analemma Society Staff

RT Telescope SingleThe Roll-Top observatory at Turner Farm will hold a classroom seminar and nighttime observing session focused on a specific astronomical topic each month.  The topics will range from planets, open clusters, double stars, stellar color spectrum, globular clusters, and galaxies.  Telescopes will be used to view the objects of the month discussed in the classroom (weather dependent).  Check the Analemma website for monthly topics ( 


Intro to Telescopes:  Instructors Analemma Society Staff

Now that you have received a new telescope, how do you set it up and use it?  Or are you considering buying a telescope?  This course goes into introductory basics of Astronomy, observing the sky, and what you need to know to setup and use your telescope.  Will provide hands-on use of telescopes and observing selected objects in the sky using the Roll-Top Observatory if the weather allows it.  Attendees can bring their own telescope for assistance and advice. (Conducted throughout the year)


Meteor Astronomy:  Instructor Peter S. Gural (Senior Scientist, Leidos)

Fireball 557x398Couse covers basic meteor astronomy including meteor phenomena and when they can be seen, fireball reporting and simple visual observing techniques.  Learn about automated observations using affordable video cameras.  Course also covers advanced techniques using radar, radio, infrasound and spectroscopy.  Optional outdoor visual observing sessions after class weather permitting; bring a lawn chair and warm cover/sleeping bag. (Conducted Tuesday 12 December at 7:30 PM)


Meteorites: Exploring Visitors from Space  Instructor Cal Powell

What are meteorites? Where do they come from? What do they tell us? This course is an introduction to these visitors from outer space, suitable for children and adults. Participants will have an opportunity to touch and examine actual meteorites including specimens from the Moon and the planet Mars. The course will be held in the Roll-Top observatory classroom at Turner Farm Park. (Conducted , Saturday February 24 at 11 AM)


Moon Gural 300x188Exploring the Moon: Instructor Bill Burton

The Moon is as old as the Earth, and its surface is marked by craters and lava flows billions of years old.   Explore these lunar features through a high-powered telescope and learn about their origins.   See where the Apollo lunar landings occurred, and discuss what the astronauts found.  Class will meet rain or shine with alternate viewing sessions available for cloudy days. 


Family Fun Night at the Telescopes:  Instructors Analemma Society Staff

Wondering about the earth in space and the kinds of strange objects that make up our universe?  Then join our family introduction to Telescopes in the Roll-Top Observatory at Turner Farm Park and take a personal guided tour of the heavens and see the color of stars, open and globular clusters, nebulae and galaxies with your own eyes (dependent on the weather).  No experience required. 


AstronomyCourse Roll Top2017Astronomy for Family Fun: Various    Instructors TBD

Enjoy hands-on activities and looking through our telescopes to learn about the solar system and everything in it. Explore every corner, observe some planets (dependent on the weather), and find out why Earth is just right to support life.  (Conducted September 28 - Solar System)

Enjoy hands-on activities and looking through our telescopes to explore the universe (dependent on the weather) and learn about mind-boggling phenomena and celestial happenings. A different topic each night:  (Topic for December 7: Geminid Meteor Shower)


Rainbows, Haloes and Glories  Instructor Jeff Kretch
Rainbow trimThe January Astronomical Seminar will cover common and some uncommon phenomena people can see in the open sky such as rainbows, haloes and glories. Sunrise and sunset phenomena like the green flash, the purple light, and simple questions like why the sky is blue and why sunsets are orange are also covered. The seminar will teach people how to better appreciate the sky both day and night. There will be an observing session in the Roll-Top Observatory after the presentation if the weather allows. (Conductedt Wednesday, January 17 at 7:30PM )



Radio Astronomy: Listening to the Universe  Instructor Robert Kellogg, Ph.D. 

Jupiter IoWhat can you hear from space? Join the adventure to understand cosmic noise and what it tells us about the sun, the magnetic structure surrounding some of our planets (and the strange radio signals from Jupiter and its moon Io). Then learn how our galaxy is mapped using the faint signals from hydrogen atoms and the behavior of molecules. Little green men? That was one of the possibilities of the strange sounds of pulsars, strange dense fast rotating stars. Come hear what our universe is saying. Course will be held in the Roll-Top observatory classroom at Turner Farm Park. (Conducted Saturday, February 10 at 10 AM)


Introduction to the Marine Sextant 

The marine sextant is the instrument used at sea for the purpose of establishing a ship’s position by observing the altitude of a celestial body above the horizon. Become familiar with the working parts of a sextant and learn about the proper care and storage for this precision instrument. Demonstration sextants will be available to examine first hand. The course will be held in the Roll-Top observatory classroom at Turner Farm Park. (Conducted Saturday March 10 at 10 AM)