Cherry Grove Observatory
Scheduled CGO Events
70 miles SSE of the Twin Cities.
Altitude: 1,170 feet
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.
Cherry Grove is ideal for beginners to experienced amateur astronomers, particularly those interested in observing projects or astrophotography requiring darker skies. Cherry Grove offers nearly unobstructed views of the east, south, and western skies.
Observatory: The new Cherry Grove roll-off roof observatory was completed for the 2013 observing season. Telescopes available at Cherry grove include a 12″ Meade SCT on a Mathis Instruments MI-500, German Equatorial mount along with a 16″ Meade SCT. The 24″ B.A.D. Starmaster Dobsonian is also stored within the new observatory and is rolled out onto a concrete pad for use under the skies.
Also available are two additional “on-site loaner” scopes. There is an 8″ Zhumell and a 10″ Meade Starfinder telescope for members’ use while at Cherry Grove. Both scopes are equipped with optical finders and Telrads, a collection of eyepieces, filters, star charts, planisphere, and red flashlight.
Parking: There is parking space available on the east side of the property. Overflow parking is also available on the shoulder of 520th St. (Dodge County A). Members can park on the observing field during daytime work parties and during private observing sessions.
MAS members and guests are requested to NOT park on the observing field or along the edge of the observing field on the west side of the driveway during star parties or when multiple parties are present during observing sessions.
Driving on to the field to unload telescopes and accessories is permissible, as long as field conditions allow (not wet as in early spring when conditions lead to permanent ruts). However, you are requested to move your vehicle to the parking area to the east of the observatory after unloading equipment and while observing.
Members and guests are requested to park in a single row along the fence line on the east side of the parking area, and park facing outward at a 90 degree angle to the fence line to maximize parking spot availability. You can park as far as the northern edge of the driveway area past the end of the fenced section. Do not park up against the observatory or warming house – that is the driveway area. Parking in the designated area ensures maximum sky visibility and convenience for all attendees. If the parking area is full, parking along the side of the county roads should be considered for overflow parking.
When parking, take into consideration when you will be leaving in order to minimize light trespass from your vehicle when leaving. If possible, shut off internal dome lights and disable automatic exterior lights. Park along the eastern fence line, facing out from the fence at a 90 degree angle to the fence in order to minimize the effect of trunk or rear compartment lights when you are loading your equipment into your vehicle at the end of your observing session. By parking facing out the use of backup lights while exiting is reduced, preserving the night vision of those still observing. By parking facing out, you will also minimize chances of collision with other cars or people while exiting under dark conditions.
Considerable effort has been undertaken by the CGO committee over the years to maximize accessibility and usefulness of the observing field and to create the convenient parking area, and we wish to maintain the best user experience for all MAS members and guests.
Warming House: There is a one-room warming house with electric heat available to all MAS members. The warming house is equipped with a coffee pot and microwave oven (bring your own water). To acquire a code to the deadbolt lock, contact the MAS Secretary or Cherry Grove Site Manager listed below.
Restroom: There is a handicap accessible port-o-potty located on the north side of the warming house. This is a new addition as of 2021 and the CGO committee is still making changes to enhance the unit.
Electricity: There are electrical outlets on the exterior of the warming house, south side of the shed, and between the concrete pads on the SW side of the property. It is advisable for you to always bring your own power if at all possible.
Property: This is a small parcel of land donated to the MAS with upkeep managed by CGO Committee through local services. There is a center concrete area hosting a Picnic table sitting on the main B.A.D. pad. There are two concrete pads for general use with more scheduled to be added. Main area is grass with north and west sides featuring a light fence. Additional tarps can be added on east side as needed during star parties.
The Cherry Grove site is available 24 hours a day. Any MAS member in good standing can request the deadbolt combination to the warming house. Once you have completed training on any one of the scopes in the observatory you will gain access to both buildings. Please request via email or forum for this information.
Note: Visitors who have limited experience attending a star party in a “dark-sky” location like Cherry Grove should review the MAS Star Party Guidelines.
Those who seek more detailed advice or answers to their questions may be more comfortable attending public viewing nights at our Onan Observatory at Baylor Regional Park. The observatory is always open on its scheduled public nights and staffed with volunteers ready and willing to help. Visit the Eagle Lake Observatory website for public event schedule and directions to the observatory.
CGO Events & Star Parties
Cherry Grove Star Parties are held on Friday nights with Saturday night backups if cloudy. Official dates are listed on the calendar and are usually the first or second weekend of the month. Others are non-official Instant Star Parties (ISP’s) listed by individual members on the forums or Slack.
CGO has three main events: Messier Marathon, Virgo Venture, and Fall Mini-Messier. There are no official MAS notices regarding Go/No Go calls for these events.
Cherry Grove is located south of the Twin Cities in Goodhue County, about 20 miles south of Cannon Falls.
To reach Cherry Grove, head south on Highway 52. About seven miles south of Cannon Falls, take exit 89 and turn right onto Goodhue County Road 9. Go west 1.1 miles on Goodhue County 9 until you reach Goodhue County Road 1 where you will turn left. Go south on Goodhue County 1 14.0 miles until you arrive at the “T” intersection of Goodhue County 1 and Dodge County A. The observatory is immediately at your right, nestled in the shoulder of the “T”.
The Cherry Grove address is 8485 520th St. Kenyon, MN 55946. (520th street is Dodge County A). Be aware that most GPS maps do not place you properly at Cherry Grove based on this address. Click the map to Cherry Grove on the right to enlarge it.
Cherry Grove Slack Channel
Cherry Grove Weather
Check out the Weather Page for other detailed forecasts.
CGO Keyholder Resources
CGO Keyholder Resources Page (Password Protected Page)