Mark Slade Remote Observatory (MSRO) – Wilderness, Virginia

Observatory Status: Operational!

South view of Observatory

Director: Myron Wasiuta [email protected]
Assistant Director: Jerry Hubbell [email protected]
Staff Astronomer: Lauren Lennon  [email protected]
Location: +38 20’ 02” -77 42’39” West Longitude Altitude 300’

Description of Facility

The Mark Slade Remote Observatory (MSRO) is an astronomical observatory made possible by a generous donation from the estate of Mark Slade, the Rappahannock Astronomy Club, and from donations of private individuals in the Fredericksburg, Virginia region.  Its mission is to serve as both a training and research facility for anyone interested in astronomy and astronomical research, and is available for use by members of the Rappahannock Astronomy Club, high-school and college students, and members of the general public.  It is operated by the MSRO Commission, which also oversees funding, coordination and approval of observation requests, and development of future mission planning. The day-to-day operations and maintenance of the observatory, scheduling of approved observation requests, and training of users are the responsibilities of the Director and Assistant Director.

The main instrument is a  Meade 12-inch LX-200 which operates at f/5.2 (1600mm f.l.). The CCD camera is an SBIG ST-2000XM (1600×1200 7.4micron pixels) with a plate scale of .96 arc-seconds/pixel and field of view of 19×26 arc-minutes. Filters for imaging include luminance, red, green, blue, and a spectroscopic grating with a resolution of 11 Angstroms/pixel. Exposures up to 300 seconds are possible with control via Telescope Drive Master. Typical star images in good seeing at this exposure time have FWHM values of about 5 arc-seconds. With careful attention to calibration and support frames, stars to magnitude 19-20 can be reached. Observations are possible only between +65 to -40 declination. In addition, there are limitations to the local horizon that might further limit visibility depending on the target’s Hour Angle.

The main computer in the observatory is remotely controlled using the desktop sharing program TeamViewer V 11. Maxim DL V6.12 operates the observatory, telescope and camera. Star charting and telescope pointing is done using Cartes du Ciel. MSRO also can perform spectroscopy and astrometry. Software available to MSRO users includes Registax V5 and V6, Nebulousity 3,, SAO Image DS9,CCDInspector 2.5.3,  Astrometrica, RSpec and Virtual Moon Atlas 6.0.  Documents available include” Photographic Lunar Atlas for Moon Observers” by Kwok C. Pau, “Photographic Moon Book” by Alan Chu, “Exoplanet Observing for Amateurs” second edition (plus) by Bruce L. Gary.


12 inch LX_200 Telescope


Computer & Workstation inside


6 foot Dome shelters Telescope

Observer Levels

As currently envisioned, there will be three levels of observers using the MSRO.

  • MSRO Guest Observer : This is the easiest way to obtain observations. This person will not actively control the observatory, but can watch online while the Director, Assistant Director, or another person fully trained in operating MSRO actually makes the guest observers observation. The data obtained will then be transferred to the guest observer via remote file transfer. Alternatively, if the guest does not want to be present while the observation is made, the observer will be notified when the data are ready for transfer.
  • MSRO Observer in Training: This is someone who wants to eventually operate the observatory unsupervised. During training, the observer will be supervised by the Director, Assistant Director, or a fully trained observer. During training, the observer will be sequentially tasked with operating more of the observatory functions until full proficiency is obtained. At that point, the Observer in Training becomes a fully credentialed MSRO Observer.
  • MSRO Observer: This observer has completed the MSRO Observer in Training Program and has been deemed fully capable of observatory operations by both the Director and Assistant Director. This observer will be granted full access to the operation of the MSRO unsupervised.

If you are interested in performing observations using the Mark Slade Remote Observatory, download the  MSRO Application for Observation Time Request(pdf), fill it out online (it’s a fillable form), and click the “Submit” button to send it to the director via your email application. Alternatively, download it, complete it offline, save it to your desktop, and send it as an attachment to an email to [email protected]. If you would like to receive training, please be sure to include that request in the “Additional Details” field of the form.

There is no charge to use this observatory. However, if you would like to make a small donation, please contact the Director via email for details.