Visiting the Observatory

We love hosting guests at the observatory, and sharing what we know about our telescope, astronomy, and science in general. If you are planning on attending one of our events, please review this page for information about directions, parking, and other important information for visiting the observatory.

Cancellations

All tours, public and private, are subject to last minute cancellation due inclement weather. Please follow our social media so you can hear about last minute cancellations.
Observatory Twitter account.
Observatory Facebook account.
If George Mason University cancels classes for any reason: all observatory events for that day are automatically cancelled.

We cancel tours if the weather conditions might be damaging to the guests, the viewing experience, or the telescope equipment. At the observatory, we utilize four different forecast websites and occasionally consult with a meteorologist to get the best possible idea about how the weather will behave. However, weather is notoriously unpredictable, and sometimes our best efforts are in vain. To keep an eye on conditions yourself, we recommend AccuWeather. Reasons for cancellations and postponements could be due to: precipitation, high cloud cover, chance of lightning, and/or high winds.

 

Guidelines for Guests

The observatory is located on the roof of Research Hall and is only accessible to observatory staff. We will meet guests in the lobby (ground floor) of Research Hall and escort guests to the observatory. If you are late to a public or private tour we can NOT guarantee that you will be let up. We have no way of knowing if someone is waiting in the lobby after we have begun a tour. The best chance to get let up is to stay by the elevators in the first-floor lobby, and try to contact a friend that is already up at the tour and ask them to alert the observatory staff.

The observatory is mostly outdoors, so please wear clothing appropriate for being outdoors for the duration of your tour. This is especially important during the winter months. The observatory will be very dark during viewing. So we highly encourage our guests to wear closed toed shoes during their visit.

The observatory is not 100% accessible. If you have any accessibility needs, please contact us at GMUObservatory@gmail.com before your visit so that we can tell you more details.

Photography is welcome in and around our facilities. However, we ask that guests not use flash photography in any designated dark areas, like inside the dome when the lights are turned off. Additionally, we request that you ask permission of any observatory staff before taking their picture.

During any viewing through the telescope, we try to keep the dome, and often the roof, as dark as possible in order to facilitate a natural transition of your eyes into night vision mode. That way you can see more detail in the objects viewed through the telescope. Night vision takes at least 5 minutes to begin taking effect and up to 45 minutes to fully achieve. However, it takes less than a second to lose all that waiting if you look at something bright. For you and the people around you, we ask that no white lights be brought into the dome, including but not limited to: flash cameras, phone screens, flashlights, and light-up shoes.

Observatory Rules

  • No Smoking or Vaping on the Observatory roof and facilities.
  • Weapons, Drugs, Alcohol, and Motorized vehicles are all prohibited up at the observatory.
  • No bright lights or bright cell phone use during viewings.
  • No flash photography until the end of the tour.
  • Children under the age of 13 must have guardian supervision at all times.

 

Location, Directions, and Parking

The location of the observing sessions is the observatory tower at Research Hall, George Mason University – Fairfax VA. Access to the observatory is restricted for safety and security. Guests will be met in the Research Hall lobby (ground floor), by the main elevators, during posted tour times.

If you have any issues with directions please call the George Mason University Info line: 703-993-9000

Directions to George Mason and Research Hall:
Find directions to George Mason’s Fairfax Campus by clicking here.

Visiting Address (note, there is no parking at this address – see parking address below):
Research Hall
10401 York River Rd
Fairfax, VA 22030

Parking Address (note, there is no parking at this address – see parking address below):
Shenandoah Parking Deck
Sandy Creek Way
Fairfax, VA 22030
*Note: The primary parking garage closes when there is construction/maintenance. Please follow our twitter for warnings and alternative parking locations.

Mailing Address:
George Mason University
4400 University Drive, MSN: 3F3
Fairfax, VA 22030-4444

Once you are on the Fairfax campus you are looking for Research Hall and/or the appropriate parking venue (see below). See the below map of the Fairfax campus (Research Hall is marked by orange lines), this google map link, or this printable map (research hall is building #49).

Map of Campus

Cancellations due to weather: Talks & Tours may be partially or completely cancelled due to bad weather. Please follow our social media so you can hear about last minute cancellations.
Observatory Twitter account.
Observatory Facebook account.
If George Mason University cancels classes for any reason: all observatory events for that day are automatically cancelled.

 

Parking

If you have a Mason Parking Pass: The closest parking lot to Research Hall is Lot A. The closest parking deck is Shenandoah Parking Deck (formally Sandy Creek Parking Deck).

If you are a guest: Guests may park in the visitor section of the Shenandoah Parking Deck. Please follow the links below for more information.
Guest Parking Rates
General Parking Info
Directions to Shenandoah Parking Deck (Look for building 43)

Parking Address (note, there is no parking at this address – see parking address below):
Shenandoah Parking Deck (formally “Sandy Creek Parking Deck”)
Sandy Creek Way
Fairfax, VA 22030
*Note: The primary parking garage closes when there is construction/maintenance. Please follow our twitter for warnings and alternative parking locations.

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