Welcome to the Cline Observatory at GTCC

Cline Observatory is a unique resource for the Triad. Its location on the Jamestown Campus of Guilford
Technical Community College makes it possible for school groups, families, and interested residents to have the wonders of the universe available in a convenient setting.

We are open to the public on clear Friday nights, weather permitting. Sessions feature views of a variety of objects through the telescope under the dome and through smaller instruments set up on our outdoor observing pad.


Our Telescope

The observatory is equipped with a 24-inch PlaneWave CDK24 reflector on a Mathis MI1000 high-precision fork mount. Other 8-inch reflectors are set up outside the dome during viewing sessions if attendance warrants. Additional telescopes can be set up on an adjacent observing pad. With these instruments, visitors can view the moon, planets, star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies.

Other large telescopes at publicly accessible observatories in NC include the 24-inch at Morehead Observatory in Chapel Hill, 32-inch telescopes at Three College Observatory operated by UNCG in Alamance County and Appalachian State University’s Dark Sky Observatory, and a 34-inch telescope in a Dobsonian configuration in Dark Sky Park, operated by The Blue Ridge Astronomy Club, Mayland Community College, and Yancey County. There is another Cline Observatory in the Triad, at Guilford College, featuring a 16-inch telescope.

Public and Special Event Viewing

You are invited to visit the observatory on any clear Friday night during the year for a public viewing session. Viewing begins at 7 p.m. during November-February, and during March- October the sessions start approximately 45 minutes after sunset. See our public viewing session calendar for more details. Sessions usually last about two hours. School, scout, or community group sessions can be arranged by contacting the observatory staff.

For updates about observatory events and the status of our viewing sessions, follow us on Twitter (X)  @gtccastro at https://twitter.com/GTCCASTRO.

In addition to our weekly public viewing sessions, we often hold viewing sessions for special events such as eclipses, transits, or other remarkable astronomical phenomena. As with our Friday public viewings, special viewing sessions are free and open to anyone with an interest in astronomy.

Public Viewing and Special Event Viewing sessions

Special Lectures and Events

Throughout the year, the observatory presents special lectures and events that are free and open to the public, including TriStar, an annual festival of astronomy held in March; the annual Fall Astronomy Day Lecture; and the Stellar Society Lecture, part of the NC Science Festival. The observatory also hosts the North Carolina Astronomers’ Meeting, a scientific conference that brings members of the N.C. professional astronomy community together to network and share research. It is not open to the public.

Learn more about TriStar

Learn more about our Fall Astronomy Day Lecture

Learn more about the Stellar Society Lecture

Solar System Walk

GTCC’s Solar System Walk begins at the observatory and spans the Jamestown campus. It provides images and information about the sun, planets, and minor bodies in the solar system in a set of displays scaled in accordance with the real solar system.

Learn more about the Sidewalk Solar System

Support The Observatory

Cline Observatory exists thanks to the generous support of J. Donald Cline and his wife Jo. You can help support the work we do by becoming a Friend of Cline Observatory or by sponsoring one of our many programs.

Learn more about Supporting the Observatory

Directions To The Observatory

Cline Observatory is near Lake Katherine on the Jamestown campus of GTCC. Use the interactive map below to get to the campus. The observatory is building 7 on the Jamestown campus map.  The best places to park are the section of Lot C near Lake Katherine (and walk around the lake to the observatory) or in Lot F (and walk to the observatory between Science Hall – building 24 on the map – and the Auto/Diesel Transportation Complex – building 2 on the map).

For information about our facility and its programs, contact observatory Director Tom English at trenglish@gtcc.edu or 336-334-4822, ext. 50023. For updates about our Friday viewing sessions and other observatory events, follow us on Twitter(X) @gtccastro at https://twitter.com/GTCCASTRO.

Other Triad Astronomy Resources

Local Astronomy Clubs

Greensboro Astronomy Club

Forsyth Astronomical Society

Local Observatories

Frank Family Science Center at Guilford College

Three College Observatory

Local Planetariums

Greensboro Science Center Omnisphere

Kaleideum North (formerly SciWorks)

Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute

Visit the website. Click here

Frequently Asked Questions

About the Facility

At Cline Observatory, we look through telescopes at objects in the night sky. A planetarium projects images of the sky onto a ceiling, and you look at the show from comfortable chairs. Sessions at the observatory are subject to weather conditions, while a planetarium show does not depend on sky conditions since it is held indoors. Local planetariums include the Greensboro Science Center and Kaleideum North (formerly SciWorks) in Winston-Salem.

The Observatory opened its doors in October 1997. GTCC hired its first full-time astronomy instructor, Aaron Martin, in 1990. He came to the college with a vision of building a campus observatory with a strong public outreach program, and it only took seven years to bring his dream to fruition. Since we opened, nearly 30,000 people have visited the facility.

Our facility would not have been possible without the support and assistance of J. Donald Cline and his wife Jo. The Clines recognized the importance of Aaron Martin’s vision of bringing astronomy to our students and the public and generously supported the building of the facility. Don Cline has also supported other astronomical and scientific ventures across North Carolina, including The Cline Observatory at Guilford College (not to be confused with Cline Observatory at Guilford Tech!), Appalachian State University’s Dark Sky Observatory, and the North Carolina Science Museum. In 1997, Don established the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) in the N.C. mountains. PARI is an astronomical research and education facility. Don Cline continues to serve as PARI president, as well as a GTCC Cline Observatory Advisory Committee member.

The observatory is equipped with a 24-inch PlaneWave CDK24 reflector on a Mathis MI1000 high precision fork mount. The magnification of the telescope changes, depending on which eyepiece is being used. Typical views range in the 120x – 180x range. A more important property than magnification is light gathering power – a larger telescope mirror collects more light, and thus makes fainter objects look brighter. We can see galaxies that are a few hundred million light years away, but they are very faint.

About Viewing Sessions

If the sky is clear, we open the facility to allow visitors to view objects through the telescope in the dome and additional telescopes set up on the observing pad. You look through the telescopes with your own eyes. There is no official program – it is simply a viewing session. We show various astronomical objects through the telescopes, point out constellations and other objects in the sky, and answer questions.

Visitors are free to come and go as they please – you don’t have to arrive at the beginning or stay until the end.

Typical turnout for our sessions is about 40 to 50 visitors per night, though session attendance has varied from 1 or 2 to nearly 300.

During March-October, we start as darkness falls. Typically, this is 30-40 minutes after sunset. Since the time of sunset changes steadily throughout the year, our session start times will also change (Determine sunset time for a particular date).  In June-July we don’t start until nearly 9, but in late October we start around 7.

During November-March we start at 7:00 pm.

Sessions usually last about two hours. If we still have a big crowd or enthusiastic visitors at the scheduled ending time, we usually extend our session time. If sky conditions worsen and we can’t see any more objects, we will end the session early.

All our events are free and open to anyone with an interest in astronomy. No reservations are necessary.

If it is raining or completely cloudy, the session will not be held. If the weather is uncertain, the best way to check session status is through the observatory’s Twitter page (@gtccastro:  https://twitter.com/GTCCASTRO). Decisions about cancellation are usually made by the official start time. If it is cloudy at the start and weather sources indicate that it might stay that way for a while, then we will close for the night.

There are a few restrictions – GTCC is a tobacco-free campus, so smoking is not allowed. Food and drink are not allowed near the telescopes, so please do not bring them into the dome area. Campus rules do not allow pets on campus. North Carolina General Statues prohibit the possession of alcohol, drugs and weapons on campus.

The dome and outside observing areas are kept relatively dark. In order to provide optimal conditions for viewing, it is important to preserve night vision. Please do not use bright lights near the telescopes (bright phone screens, flashlights, flash photography, etc.)

No. Since the dome opens to the night air, any heat from inside will escape, and the warm air convecting through the dome opening creates unsteady conditions that distort the views of the objects we observe. Therefore, our policy is to try to keep the temperature of the interior of the dome approximately the same temperature as outside. So be sure to dress for the conditions.

The observatory is family-friendly. Observing the Moon and planets will be an exciting experience for a child with an interest in science. Very young kids are fascinated by the Moon, but tend to be overwhelmed by the observatory experience.

Group Visits

Groups are welcome at our Friday sessions, but we do ask that you let us know well ahead of time if you plan to bring a large group, so that we can try to recruit more volunteers to help with the session. Since Friday sessions are open to the public, and there are no limits on the number of attendees (typical sessions average 40+ visitors), a group visiting on a Friday cannot be guaranteed any special attention.

Group visits on other nights are possible, typically weeknights. Specific availability will depend on the availability of our staff. Because of our teaching schedules, daytime visits are usually difficult to accommodate.

To inquire about bringing a group to the observatory, contact us at 336-334-4822 Ext. 50023 or email Observatory Director Tom English.

If you have other questions you would like to see posted here, let us know.