The Observatory is open the first and third Friday of the month with programs starting at sundown. Please email me if you plan to visit.
Aiken County Parks and Recreation
Boyd Observatory opened to the public Saturday, April first in the year 2000. The Grand Opening was attended by many of the wonderful people who gave so generously of their time and energy making the facility possible. The core group of volunteers, John Felak, Stuart Roberts and Jim Cadieux worked mostly weekends for over three years to complete the structure, the telescope and the support electronics. The aluminum dome was manufactured by a local metal fabricator who was willing to do the work at cost with the understanding that I construct an ecommerce website for his business. The dome construction lasted over two years and when completed was lifted by crane onto the finished observatory building. The funding required for the observatory was out of pocket as we have never charged for attendance and do not accept donations.
When we opened Boyd Observatory it was the largest and most capable optical telescope facility in Aiken and surrounding counties. The original telescope was a sixteen inch Newtonian which was later upgraded to the .44 meter telescope now in use. Soon after our opening the University of South Carolina, Aiken began construction and completed a dome atop the Ruth Patrick Science Center housing an impressive sixteen-inch Cassegrain telescope and thus Aiken then had two locations providing science education in Astronomy. We have been extraordinarily fortunate to have these two locations working closely together to accomplish our shared goals of providing the public instruction in science and a glimpse of the wonders hiding in the darkness of the night sky.
Originally, Boyd Observatory was open every Saturday night. In those days unless the weather was wreched I would still be there to welcome visitors and show off the observatory so many worked so hard to construct. Sometime around 2013 the hours changed to the first and third Saturday of the month with special openings by request. With the difficulties of Covid and social distancing I now have public shows on the first and third Friday of the month and work Saturdays at the U.S.C.A. facility.
Unfortunately, there has been a troubled history of break-ins, some far worse than others. There have been seven significant cases of robbery and vandalism. The most recent requiring the replacement of the assembly that allows the dome slit to open. Only with help from Aiken County Parks and Recreation were we able to make repairs as the costs associated with the repair were beyond my ability at that time. It has been necessary to repair or replace computers and support electronics several times. This was also a factor in replacing the original telescope with the one now in service. I will say that each event offered the opportunity for the reimagining and emergence of the highly capable system in place now.
I am now retired, having worked in I.T.for Evening Post Publishing and as an adjunct instructor in the Astronomy Dept. at the College of Charleston. With retirement, I have been devoting more time to my work at Boyd Observatory. You can see examples of my recent images on the observatory's website http://www.boydobservatory.com
Most of the visitors to the observatory are family groups and I especially enjoy working with young children. I try to focus on any question or topic that will encourage an interest in science. Occasionally we have hosted larger programs with as many as one hundred visitors but meetings that large have been rare. Usually the groups number about ten.
The technology now in use is truly impressive. I now have the ability to show in high resolution and in near real time images captured by the large scope. This allows me to not only showcase astronomical objects in a short amount of time in full color but the images can be emailed to program participants so they can enjoy them at home or in their classroom. Additionally this technique is much safer as the telescope eyepiece is nearly twelve feet above the observatory floor. Some program participants have even shown an interest in astrophotography and were able to enjoy far more dramatic images of bright nebulae and galaxies.
I would like to express my profound thanks to Akien County Parks and Recreation managers and staff. Without the vision shown in creating Boyd Pond Park and your support of the observatory, there is little chance it would have survived let alone improved over these past years. From the bottom of my heart,