Thanks for visiting!

This project is now in update mode. Check back regularly to see how things are progressing.

The Fuertes Observatory Museum & Outreach Project

Raised toward our $7,500 Goal
133 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on March 11, at 12:59 AM EDT
Project Owners

The Fuertes Observatory Centennial

April 12, 2017

Dear Fuertes Museum Project Supporter,

We want to share some updates and news about the Fuertes Museum, our Yuri’s Night celebration this Friday, and our new crowdfunding campaign that just launched on Monday!

First, we are excited to say that the last stage of the Fuertes Museum renovation will be completed within the next few weeks! Once the final installation of lighting and blinds is done, we will begin moving equipment (including the original Fuertes 4.5" telescope mount and clock drive) and displays into the space. The hope is to have everything set up well in advance of Cornell Reunion Weekend in early June. We have received a lot of press over the past two months about the museum project and its success, including this article featured in the Cornell Chronicle and a radio interview with WICB's Ithaca Now!

Additionally, if you will be in the Ithaca area, we want to invite you to our Yuri’s Night Celebration that will be taking place this Friday (April 14th) from 7pm to midnight at Fuertes - check out the event page for more info!

Finally, we are happy to announce the launch of the Fuertes Observatory Centennial Renovation Project! This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the completion of Fuertes Observatory (finished in the fall of 1917), and with the tremendous success of our museum project in 2015 - entirely thanks to you - and the amazing feedback we have received from our donors and visitors, we were eager to see other parts of the building renovated as well for its centennial year.

In this new project, we are hoping to raise $20,000 to restore several parts of the observatory in need of repair (especially the dome room, which contains the historic Irving Porter Church Refractor) for its centennial year, while still preserving its old charm. We also intend to upgrade the classroom with a mounted projector and computer system to improve our lecture series and overall outreach program. Check out our crowdfunding page for a list of goals and additional information!

We know many of you have contributed to the project already (and a huge thank you to those who have), but for those who haven't seen it yet, we would greatly appreciate your support in helping us reach this goal to preserve Fuertes for another 100 years to come. A gift of any amount would be a tremendous help, and we would love it if you could share the project with anyone who you think would be interested!

Additionally, like last time, the crowdfunding platform and accounts are managed by Cornell University, so all donations are completely tax deductible, and you can participate in an employer matching program if it is available to you! Check out the crowdfunding FAQ page for more information.

Click here to visit our crowdfunding page and to contribute to the campaign. Thank you for your continued support!



The Cornell Astronomical Society 

Progress of the Fuertes Observatory Museum

December 09, 2016

Dear Fuertes Observatory Museum Project Supporter,

A lot has happened at the Fuertes Observatory over the past 18 months, and we are happy to say that the enthusiasm for science outreach and preserving the building’s history has never been stronger! We have welcomed over 4,000 visitors to Fuertes since last December, and we have heard nothing but good things about the new museum.

Last May (2016), our beautiful new hardwood display case arrived, and we placed several of the smaller, more delicate antique items in our collection behind its protective glass. These include 100-year-old astronomy globes, a sextant, old photographic equipment, an antique spectroscope, and two spectacular marine chronometers used to accurately keep time in the 19th-century.

Yesterday, we added a third room to the Fuertes Museum! This was not in our original plan, but due to shifting of storage space in the building, we seized the opportunity to open the easternmost room of the building to display more of our antique astronomical instruments. With the remaining funds from our 2015 crowdfunding campaign and assistance from the Cornell Astronomy Department, we were able to completely renovate the badly water-damaged room. Fresh coats of paint on the walls and floors now make the room look as good as new, and museum track lighting and blinds will be installed in the next few weeks to add a professional touch. If all goes according to plan, we hope to begin setting up displays in January.

Check out the shots of the renovations attached to this update and visit our Fuertes Museum Gallery on our website ( for more photos and updates. As always, feel free to visit our website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed to learn more about what the Cornell Astronomical Society is doing at Fuertes, and we would love to see you at one of our Fuertes Open House Nights.

As you may know, Fuertes Observatory will be celebrating its 100th Anniversary in just under a year! For almost a century, Fuertes has been home to Cornell civil engineering, astronomy, and science outreach, and with your generous support, we have been able to beautifully preserve that history and showcase it in the Fuertes Museum.

From all of us at Fuertes, we thank you again for your support in preserving our astronomical time capsule on Cornell’s North Campus, and we wish you a happy holiday season!



The Cornell Astronomical Society 

Museum Renovations

September 19, 2015

Dear Fuertes Observatory Museum Project Supporter,


After several months of planning and waiting, the renovation of the two museum rooms is complete! The floors, walls, and ceilings of both rooms have been painted, and beautiful, warm accent lighting has been installed. Yesterday, the paint had dried enough so that we could start bringing some of the astronomical equipment back into the rooms. We will continue to bring the equipment back into the museum space over the next week, and hope to have all of our displays put together within the next month or so! 

Additionally, over the summer, we ordered 22 new high-quality glass slides for our backlit display case! They are beautiful colored images of planets, nebulae, galaxies, etc. taken by Hubble, Spitzer, Cassini, and even New Horizons. We also have an awesome shot of comet Hale-Bopp next to the Andromeda Galaxy taken by a former Cornell Astronomical Society member. The slides have all been installed in the case and have replaced several of the old and damaged B&W slides, which are now stored safely in the observatory office. 

Please visit for a photo gallery of the museum renovations.  We will continue to update this as more changes are made! Also, check out or Facebook page and Twitter feed for updates.

Thanks again for your generous support of this project! We would not have been able to do any of this without your help. We hope you will stop by during one of our Friday night open houses to see the progress that has been made, and we will continue to update you in the future!


Sincerely yours,

The Cornell Astronomical Society

Continuing a Cornell Tradition

February 19, 2015

Thank you so so much to everyone who helped us reach 14% of our goal so far! We'd like to share a bit of history about Fuertes and CAS with you. 

Fuertes Observatory, the building, was completed in 1917 and the telescope was installed in 1922. This Fuertes Observatory, however, is the fifth observatory built at Cornell. To read more about the first four observatories on campus, visit our wiki.  Public outreach, though, started at Fuertes before it was even officially opened.  February 10, 1923: Even before the dedication of Fuertes Observatory, the Cornell Daily Sun reports on Friday night viewing! On March 2, 1923, over 250 people came to Fuertes to view the moon! See the news clippings.

The official undergraduate group -- the Cornell Astronomical Society -- wasn't formed until 1972, but we're proud to carry on a (nearly) century's old tradition.

Thank you for your support! And please help us spread the word about Fuertes!

Finally, for those of you in Ithaca, we're looking at a crisp, clear night tomorrow. Come see Jupiter, the Orion Nebula, and more at 7:30pm!

Our Vision for the Fuertes Observatory Museum

February 23, 2015

A huge thank you to everyone who has helped us reach about 25% of our goal in the first week! It is great to see so many people excited about the Fuertes Observatory and its history. If you have already donated, you may be wondering if there is anything else you can do to help out. The answer is yes! Please help us spread the word about our project to all those who appreciate Fuertes, astronomy, history, and Cornell! We can’t make this happen without your help.

We would also like to share with you our vision for the Fuertes Observatory Museum so you can have a better idea of where your donation is going. 


OUR VISION FOR THE FUERTES OBSERVATORY MUSEUM: A focus on experiencing history: At the Fuertes Observatory Museum, we'll be able to blend our history with our present. 

  • ​​​We'll have a hands-on optics exhibit to explain how telescopes work. Both kids and adults will get to pick up and play with lenses and mirrors to create different types of telescopes. Upstairs, they'll get to see these telescopes in action and understand why they work. ​
  • We hope to restore the original chronograph to working order. Visitors will be able to press triggers to make time-keeping marks on the drum, just as civil engineers did in 1923. 
  • We also hope to add a small planetarium to the observatory. We'll be able to orient visitors to the night sky, show the stars on cloudy nights, or show visitors exactly what the sky looked like 100 or 1,000,000 years ago.​


A focus on sharing history: In addition to the hands-on exhibits, we'll have a number of in-house-designed, professionally produced boards on a variety of subjects:

  • ​Carl Sagan was a giant in popularizing astronomy. We'll have a section dedicated to his contribution during his time at Cornell, his work on Cosmos, and his impact to the astronomy community as a whole.
  • Estevan Fuertes, the namesake of the Observatory, was a very dedicated and notable professor of the early Cornell University. We'll bring his personality and work ethic to light through photos and written words.
  • Our excellent collection of transits, clocks, and other early civil engineering and astronomy instruments will be neatly presented and described, documenting the history of those fields. 
  • ​ A montage-board of the best Daily Sun articles, personal correspondences, speeches, and academic papers about Fuertes Observatory. Visitors will be able to read the thoughts of people standing in the same place a century ago. For example, in 1923, Professor Boothryod announced in the Daily Sun that there would be public observing at 7:30pm on Friday night. If it was cloudy, he would show lantern slides from Lowell Observatory -- the same ones that are in our front entryway today.

A focus on the future: We want Fuertes to be a place where people can visit, with their children, and talk about what astronomy means.  

  • ​Current Cornell Astronomical research will be displayed in a spruced-up lighted-slide wall. We'll bring in new, colored slides that illustrate where astronomy is taking us. 
  • Good discussion. As always, the Cornell Astronomical Society will be there with a room full of seats and hot chocolate to talk about whatever you want to know. Astronomy intersects with philosophy, history, math, physics, and geology in so many interesting ways. 


But we need your help to make this vision a reality. Even $10 each from just a handful of the thousands of people who have enjoyed Fuertes will add up to a dramatically improved museum space. So spread the word! Thank you!

The Cornell Astronomical Society

Also, for more information about CAS, check out our website, our facebook page, and follow @cornellastrosoc on Twitter! 

Help the Cornell Astronomical Society Spread the Word!

February 27, 2015

Another big thank you to all those who have helped us reach about 1/3 of our goal so far! With another week and a half to go, we are confident that we can reach our goal, but we need your help to do so! Please continue to spread the word about this project to friends, family, and astronomy lovers around the world!


We also want to share with you a brief history of our club and the impacts we have had on Cornell, the Ithaca community, and our members over the years:

The Cornell Astronomical Society (CAS) has a long history of public astronomy outreach. Founded in 1972, we have continuously held open houses at the Fuertes Observatory on Friday nights. The members of the club have an intense passion for astronomy and its history, and without CAS, Fuertes would not be open to the public. Thousands of people from our local area (Ithaca, NY) and around the world have visited Fuertes and have learned about planets, stars, galaxies, and telescopes because of CAS. On a warm, clear night, we easily welcome over 200 visitors to view the heavens. Since 1978, over 39,000 visitors have signed our guest books, with over 4,500 in 2014! 

While we are extremely proud of our legacy of outreach, CAS is particularly special because it is composed almost entirely of undergraduate students who run public outreach nights at the observatory. We take anyone with an interest in astronomy and teach him or her about observing, telescope use, the history of our observatory, and how to share this information with the public. So not only have we shared the night sky with thousands of visitors, but given hundreds of undergraduates an experience with and a life-long appreciation for astronomy they may not otherwise have had.

Furthermore, we are privileged to be able to share Cornell’s 92-year-old Irving Porter Church Memorial Telescope, a 12” f/15 refractor, with the public on a weekly basis. We think there are fewer than twenty of this breed of telescope left in existence, let alone open to the public to peer through on a weekly basis. With Brashear optics and an original (fully operational) clock-driven Warner & Swasey mount, “Irv” is a testament to the prowess of turn-of-the-20th-century astronomy. So in addition to simply showing amazing galaxies and nebulae, we also are able to give visitors a historical experience -- an appreciation of how astronomy has changed in the last century. For more about the Irving Porter Church Telescope click here.

We want to add the museum to the many amazing things we share with the public every Friday night. We are confident the museum will last for many decades, and will likely impact tens of thousands of those who visit Fuertes in the years to come. 


Thanks again for your support!

The Cornell Astronomical Society

Historic and Timeless

March 04, 2015

Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed so far! We're going to be able to bring a whole new life to our public open houses! However, we haven’t reached our goal yet. But there’s still time — please share our campaign with friends and spread the word to help us make the most out of the upcoming renovation. 

Fuertes Observatory is both historic and timeless. Many parts of Fuertes have not changed since it was built in 1917. There are the same tables, ladders, telescope, and even some plotting homework from nearly a century ago. Your donation to the Fuertes Observatory Museum will become a permanent part of Fuertes, likely still educating visitors a century from today. 

Additionally, we are personally promising that every single dollar will be put to the best possible use.  During the renovation process, we’ll post updates and ask for feedback, so you can see what a difference your donation is making.

Again, we’re so grateful for your belief in the Fuertes Observatory Museum. Thank you!

Thank You!

March 13, 2015

A huge thank you to each and every one of our 133 donors who helped us reach $9,000 (120% of our goal)!! We are thrilled that so many people think Fuertes is an amazing place worth being preserved!

We will keep everyone updated on the status of the museum in the coming months, and would love to hear your suggestions and comments! We hope to have everything completed by the beginning of the 2015 fall semester. Look for more updates in the coming weeks as we begin the exiting renovation and installation process!

Also, if you are ever in the Ithaca area and want to stop by Fuertes, do not hesitate to contact one of the Cornell Astronomical Society officers (contact info found here). We would love to give you a tour and show you the sky with our telescopes! We are also open to the public every Friday night starting around 8:00 PM. 

Again, thank you so much for your support, and we hope you will visit Fuertes and see the museum!

Choose a giving level


First Light

A donation at this level will help us build the foundations of a new museum!



A donation at this level will help us purchase at least one museum placard to showcase our instruments.


Finder Scope

A donation at this level will help us purchase one Plexiglas display case to keep our antique instruments safe for years to come!



A donation at this level will fund several new slides for our display wall -- a favorite on cloudy nights.


Dobsonian Telescope

A donation at this level will fund our hands-on optics exhibit to explain how telescopes work through physical learning.


Transit Scope

A donation at this level will allow us to build a small planetarium so our visitors can experience the night sky even on cloudy nights!


Irving Porter Church

A donation at this level will allow us to change the lighting in our museum rooms from harsh fluorescent tubes to warm museum spotlights!