Become  a  MAS  Keyholder

Through years of hard work by countless volunteers, fundraising efforts and with overwhelmingly generous donations, the Minnesota Astronomical Society has some of the finest amateur equipment and facilities available. In fact, we are likely one of the best equipped amateur astronomy clubs in the county, if not the world. As a MAS member, you are eligible to become a Keyholder at any or all of these facilities. With the required site specific training and orientation, you’ll be able to use any site for outreach events or you own personal use.


The MAS maintains five observing sites, four with observatories, that are available for our membership to use. Each site includes observing amenities, ranging from a simple warming structure and concrete pads to a fully-equipped observatory housing multiple telescopes.


For complete information on each of the Society’s sites including directions, descriptions and information regarding the facilities and equipment, click on the location of interest on the site name below or visit the Observing Facilities webpage.


Eagle Lake Observatory
Cherry Grove Observatory
Joseph J. Casby Observatory
Long Lake Conservation Center
Metcalf Field




Become an Eagle Lake Observatory (ELO) Keyholder

Eagle Lake Observatory
Photo by Merle Hiltner ©


Overview: The Minnesota Astronomical Societies newly christened Eagle Lake Observatory (E.L.O.) consists of the Onan Observatory, The Sylvia A. Casby Observatory and the HotSpot Classroom. In 2013, the S.A. Casby observatory and HotSpot Classroom became operational and complement the Onan facility. E.L.O. is the main public outreach facility of the MAS with scheduled public star parties from March to November.

Purpose of training: The observatory and its equipment are generally on a scale and complexity with which many MAS members have little or no experience. This training program provides the basic information to keyholders need to open the observatory and operate the basic equipment safely, keeping themselves, visitors and the equipment from harm.

Eagle Lake Observatory Keyholder eligibility: The requirements for becoming a keyholder remain essentially as they have since the observatory first opened.

  • Every keyholder must be a member in good-standing of the MAS.
  • Every keyholder must complete the basic training program.
  • Be at least eighteen years of age.

Eagle Lake Observatory Keyholder responsibilities:

  • Enforce observatory operating rules and guidelines when the observatory is in use.
  • Complete the closing checklist and observatory log each time they are in charge of any observatory-related activity.
  • Report any problems or concerns about the observatory and equipment in a timely manner to the site manager as well as posting on the Discussions Forum.
  • Return the observatory to its previous condition and prepare for the next members use or outreach event.
  • Secure the buildings after each use.
  • Provide assistance with construction, maintenance or program activities at the observatory during the calendar year.

    NOTE: Upcoming construction and maintenance information will be posted on the observatoryDiscussion Forum.

Eagle Lake Observatory Keyholder Service Requirement:   Due to the extent of the equipment and facilities at the Eagle Lake Observatory, it is requested that all of the keyholders help maintain the site. Listed below are numerous items that require periodic attention. These items can be done as part of a ”Work Party”, but can also done by an individual as needed, such as dusting off the equipment, vacuuming, replacing light bulbs, etc. Your help is greatly appreciated in keeping the facility a place we can all be proud of.

  • Open the observatory for member / visitor use during MAS star parties.
  • Help with public events at the observatory either as team member or team leader.
  • Participate in observatory construction “work parties” (pulling weeds, telescope and building maintenance, etc.)
  • Participate in observatory maintenance “work parties” (cleaning, adjusting equipment, taking inventory, etc.)
  • Be available to non-keyholding MAS members desiring use of the observatory for special projects.
  • Conduct observatory-based educational events for schools, scouts and similar groups.
  • Recruit and train others as observatory keyholders or participants in work parties and events.
  • Making formal presentations (slide show, PowerPoint, etc).
  • Run one of the telescope platforms on a Public Night.
  • “Crowd Control” – help direct visitors, answer basic questions, tour guide, etc.

If you have questions or concerns regarding this section, now would be a good time to visit the Keyholder Training forum and post them.

Becoming a Keyholder at the Eagle Lake Observatory:   Keyholder training is scheduled several times a year.   Information on the next training session can be found on the MAS Discussion Forums HERE

Inquiries about training can be directed to the Eagle Lake Observatory site manager Merle Hiltner HERE



Become a Cherry Grove Observatory (CGO) Keyholder


Cherry Grove Observatory
Photo by Steve Emert ©


Overview: The Minnesota Astronomical Society owns a small parcel of land in Goodhue County known as “Cherry Grove”. It is the Society’s first “dark sky” site. In 2013, construction of a new roll-off observatory was completed to house new and existing on site telescopes.

Purpose of training: While those generally using the Cherry Grove Observatory will bring and use their own equipment, training is required to use the new observatory, onsite scopes and warming house.

Cherry Grove Observatory Keyholder eligibility:

  • Every keyholder must be a member in good-standing of the MAS.
  • Every keyholder must complete the basic training program.
  • Be at least eighteen years of age.

Cherry Grove Observatory Keyholder responsibilities:

  • Setup for scheduled member star parties.
  • Report any problems or concerns about the observatory and equipment in a timely manner to the site manager as well as posting on the Cherry Grove Discussions Forum.
  • Complete the closing checklist and observatory log each time they are in charge of any observatory-related activity.
  • Return the observatory to its previous condition and prepare for the next members use or event.
  • Secure the buildings after each use.
  • Provide assistance with construction, maintenance or program activities at the observatory during the calendar year.

    NOTE: Upcoming construction and maintenance information will be posted on the Cherry Grove Discussions Forum.

    You may also sign up for the Cherry Grove Observatory email list. Follow the link HERE and register to receive CGO email.

Becoming a Keyholder at the Cherry Grove Observatory:   Keyholder training is held several times a year.   Information on the next training session can be found on the Cherry Grove Observatory Discussions Forum HERE

Inquiries about training can be directed to the Cherry Grove site manager Vic Heiner at heinerv@aol.com



Become a Joseph J. Casby Observatory Keyholder


Joseph J. Casby Observatory
Photo by Merle Hiltner ©


Overview: The Joseph J. Casby Observatory is one of the members only facilities of the MAS and not open to the general public. It is available for members use by requesting a reservation via the Joseph J. Casby Observatory Keyholders forum. The observatory is located on the private property of the Belwin Conservancy in Afton, MN.

Joseph J. Casby Observatory Keyholder eligibility:

  • Every keyholder must be a member in good-standing of the MAS.
  • Every keyholder must attend the Belwin Conservancy Orientation.
  • Complete the basic training program on the observatory, equipment and Belwin Center.
  • Must be at least eighteen years of age.

Joseph J. Casby Observatory Keyholder responsibilities:

  • Enforce observatory operating rules and guidelines when the observatory is in use.
  • Complete the closing checklist and observatory log each time they are in charge of any observatory-related activity.
  • Report any problems or concerns about the observatory and equipment in a timely manner to the site manager as well as posting on the Joseph J. Casby Observatory Keyholders Forum.
  • Secure the building after each use.
  • Provide assistance with construction and maintenance work parties at the observatory during the calendar year.
  • Provide assistance with Belwin Conservancy activities, outreach and / or educational events, etc.

Becoming a Keyholder at the Joseph J. Casby Observatory:   Keyholder training is held several times a year.   Information on the next training session can be found on the Metcalf / Belwin Discussions Forum HERE

Inquiries about training can be directed to J. J. Casby Observatory Committee member Merle Hiltner HERE



Become a LLCC Observatory Keyholder


Long Lake Conservation Center Observatory
Photo by Merle Hiltner ©

Overview: The LLCC Observatory is a MAS members only facility and not open to the general public. It is available for members use on scheduled weekends. The one exception is during the Northern Nights Star Fest regional star party, giving non-members access to the dark skies of northern Minnesota. 

Purpose of training: While those generally using LLCC will bring and use their own equipment, training is required to use the observatory and onsite scopes.

LLCC Keyholder eligibility:

  • Every keyholder must be a member in good-standing of the MAS.
  • Every keyholder must complete the basic training program.
  • Be at least eighteen years of age.

LLCC Keyholder responsibilities:

  • Setup for scheduled member star parties.
  • Report any problems or concerns about the observatory and equipment in a timely manner to the site manager as well as posting on the Long Lake Conservation Center Discussions Forum.
  • Complete the closing checklist and observatory log each time they are in charge of any observatory-related activity.
  • Return the observatory to its previous condition and prepare for the next members use or event.
  • Secure the building after each use.
  • Provide assistance with construction, maintenance or program activities at the observatory during the calendar year.

    NOTE: Upcoming construction and maintenance information will be posted on the Long Lake Conservation Center Discussions Forum.

Becoming a Keyholder at LLCC:   Information on the next keyholder training session can be found on the Long Lake Conservation Center Discussions Forum HERE

Inquiries about training can be directed to the LLCC site manager Wayne Boline at tramp4600@gmail.com



Become a Metcalf Field Keyholder


Metcalf Field
Photo by Merle Hiltner ©


Overview: Metcalf Field, aka Metcalf Nature Center, is a fenced observing area east of St. Paul. Amenities include several concrete pads and metal piers with electricity, a ”rustic” outhouse and a warming house. The warming house has a padlock and bolt requiring attaining the combination from the MAS’ Secretary or the Metcalf Field Site Manager.

Metcalf Field Keyholder eligibility:

  • Every keyholder must be a member in good-standing of the MAS.
  • Complete the basic training program and / or orientation.
  • Be at least eighteen years of age.

Metcalf Field Keyholder responsibilities:

  • Make sure building is secure and power is off.
  • Provide assistance with construction, maintenance or program activities during the calendar year.

Becoming a Keyholder at Metcalf Field :   For the combination to the warming House, contact the MAS’ Secretary or the Metcalf Field Site Manager.

Inquiries about Metcalf Field can be directed to the Metcalf Field site manager Tom Youngblood at skyking@pressenter.com