The Minnesota Astronomical Society's Joseph J. Casby Observatory at the Belwin Conservancy is located on the prairie next to our education center. The Casby Observatory permanently houses an eight foot long 10" TMB Apochromatic Refracting Telescope—one of the finest in the state. Although located at the Belwin Conservancy, the observatory and telescope are owned and operated by our partners, the Minnesota Astronomical Society (MAS).
Members of the MAS routinely visit the observatory at night to use this unique instrument for their amateur and semi-professional observations of the heavens.
The Casby Observatory and the telescope are sophisticated instruments. Due of this and because of its location on our preserve, the Casby Observatory is not generally open to the public. There are currently two ways to visit this location:
Inquiries about the observatory, including use of the facility should be directed to the Minnesota Astronomical Society. Members of the Belwin Conservancy will be alerted to upcoming member-only events involving the observatory.
The partnership between the Minnesota Astronomical Society and the Belwin Conservancy is due to our shared history with Father George Metcalf. Father Metcalf formerly owned a large property near Lake Edith that he used as a spiritual retreat center. In the 1970's, Father Metcalf and his wife were looking to scale down their work and contacted the Minnesota Science Museum with the intention of donating the bulk of their property to the museum.
While working with the Minnesota Science Museum, Father Metcalf got to know members of the newly organized Minnesota Astronomical Society. They were looking for a permanent location to conduct their observations and Father Metcalf—always interested in the natural world himself—offered them a portion of his property to use.
The Metcalf Observation Site has been an important location for the MAS' observations for 40 years. There are a number of telescope piers and concrete pads at the site as well as a warming hut.
Over the years, the Science Museum has transferred all of the property formerly owned by Father Metcalf to the Belwin Conservancy as part of our Lake Edith Natural Area. As part of that transition, the Metcalf Observation Site also came under Belwin Conservancy ownership. We are proud to continue Father Metcalf's legacy and continue to welcome members of the MAS to the preserve to explore the heavens.
The Minnesota Astronomical Society's Joseph J. Casby Observatory at the Belwin Conservancy is a direct extension of that partnership. In 2009, an anonymous individual donated a professional-grade telescope to the Minnesota Astronomical Society. A permeant facility was needed to house the telescope but at the time, no such spot existed. The MAS membership had also long wanted a permanent telescope housed in the east metro to compliment those already located throughout the area.
Due to our longstanding partnership, putting the telescope at the Belwin Conservancy was obvious for both organizations. The chosen location is a very unique spot with a panoramic view of the southern sky with very little light pollution for a metro location. For the Belwin Conservancy, the work of the MAS is complimentary with our mission of inspiring our connection to the natural world and opens up an entirely new use for our preserve.
Construction of the Joseph. J. Casby Observatory began in the fall of 2009 and was completed in the summer of 2010. Since then, the observatory has become a valued part of the Belwin Conservancy.