• The UMBC Observatory was first opened just before the Summer of 1999. It was funded as part of the UMBC Physics Building construction.
  • It was originally conceived by Professor-Emeritus Dr. Harvey Melfi–the then director of the Joint Center for Earthsystems Technology (JCET).
  • After Dr. Melfi’s retirement, duty of care was passed to a core group of faculty at UMBC that continue to administer the UMBC Observatory Group and its projects.
  • Observatory dome and telescope constructed by Ash Dome and DFM Engineering. The telescope itself was meant for atmospheric physics, and so boasted an ability to look all the way to the horizon for maximum airmass observation
  • Dr. Eric Tittley began as a post-doctoral researcher with Dr. Mark Henriksen and was appointed Telescope Operator


  • Thursday October 4, 2001: The first “First Thursday Public Night” was held. These were public stargazing nights, First Thursdays with clouds were canceled.


  • Lab manager Andrew Vache maintained and operated the telescope. Andrew kept-up the tradition of weather-depending Public Viewing Nights


  • Apparition of newly discovered comet C\ISON
  • Dr. Susan Hoban (retired 2020) and Roy Prouty (Director 2013-) met with Dr. Ian George (Joint Center for Astrophysics Director 200X-20YZ) if they could use the telescope to participate in a world-wide observation campaign of C\ISON
  • Dr. George said yes but didn’t know how to use it
  • Dr. Hoban and Roy figured it out and were able to observe C\ISON
  • This generated the first mission of the UMBC Observatory: (1) Research Support and (2) Outreach
  • November 2013: First-Thursday Public Viewing Nights began again!
  • In order to avoid weather complications, these nights were joined by a short lecture on astronomy.


  • During the scheduling of the 2015-2016 Public Viewing Nights, someone remarked that they sounded a bit reminiscent of a funeral viewing… So they were henceforth known as Open Houses!


  • Conversations between UMBC Astronomy Club Presidents and the UMBC Observatory Director developed into a stronger partnership between the two organizations.
  • The Director of the UMBC Observatory would be the faculty advisor of the UMBC Astronomy Club
  • The UMBC Observatory bolstered its mission to (1) Research Support, (2) Outreach, and (3) Supporting UMBC Astronomy Club


  • February 6, 2020 Last Open House before COVID-19 Pandemic halted all operations



  • June 2022 Open houses started up again
  • October 2022 Move to CMOS camera
  • Dr. Eileen Meyer and UMBC Observatory Director Roy Prouty form AstroPol Group created for the purpose of supporting polarimetric observations and modernizing the telescope
  • The cleaning and repair of the light baffle, mirror doors, motors, control computer, auto-guiding system, instrument box