Joseph J. Casby Observatory
Address: 1553 Stagecoach Trail South, Afton, MN 55001
Altitude: 840 feet
The Joseph J. Casby Observatory opened in the spring of 2010. The new observatory has one of the largest refracting telescopes in the state, a 10″ TMB f9 refractor driven by an Astro-Physics 3600GTO “el Capitan” mount. This professional quality telescope and mount are accompanied by a TMB 130 f7 scope and a ST 120 guide scope. The scope is housed within a 16.5 foot Ash-Dome observatory. The motorized dome is a first for the MAS and provides an appropriate home for such a high quality instrument.
The Belwin Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation, restoration and appreciation of our natural world. Belwin Conservancy currently owns nearly 1,400 acres in Afton and West Lakeland Township, MN comprising one of the largest privately owned nature preserves in the area. The Belwin Center and the trails near it are probably Belwin’s most iconic spot. This portion of the property houses Belwin’s headquarters and is used by the Saint Paul Public School System’s Belwin Outdoor Science Environmental Learning Center. Belwin Outdoor Science runs throughout the school year, and operates several summer programs that together host over 10,000 students every year.
Per agreement with the Belwin Conservancy, the site is designated for MAS members that have attended the Belwin Orientation. Those members may visit the Belwin site at any time, however, the main gate to the observatory and observing field is locked in the evening. MAS members that have attended orientation and received Keyholder training wishing to use the site will be provided with a gate, door, and alarm codes. All visitors must comply with Belwin/JJCO “Visitation Rules” and Guidelines / Procedures.
Parking at the observatory is limited. You are able to unload and load your scope near the observatory. There is also limited parking at the parking lot in the wooded area near the observatory or at the cul-de-sac.
Warming & Restrooms
MAS members are given a code to the deadbolt lock on the west door of the Belwin Center located near the observatory, providing warming facilities and restrooms.
Telescope Pads & Electrical
Several electrical outlets are available on the exterior of the observatory. Three telescope pads are available for those wanting to bring their own telescopes to the site.
Site Manager Contact Information
For further information about Belwin and the Casby Observatory, contact the MAS JJCO site manager.
If you are a new JJCO Keyholder and still are a little apprehensive about using the observatory and its fine equipment, or just would like a private refresher, fill out the form below to request a private Mentor session by one of our experienced Keyholders. The JJCO Committee members will find a Mentor and work with you on a mutually agreed date.
Directions to the Belwin Conservancy
Heading east from St. Paul along I-94. About four miles east of the I-694 / I-494 crossing is Minnesota State Highway 95, also known as Manning Avenue (exit 253). Turn right (south) and then almost immediately turn left on the frontage road (Hudson Road S). Continue east on Hudson Road for about three miles to Stagecoach Trail (Co Rd 21). Turn right (south) at Stagecoach Trail for two miles. The entrance to Belwin Conservancy is on your left (1/10 mile past the intersection of Indian Trail South)
An alternate route from Hudson Road, is to turn right onto Indian Trail South. Follow Indian Trail to Stagecoach Trail (Co Rd 21). Turn right on Stagecoach for 1/10 mile to the Belwin entrance.
Once in Belwin, drive past the lower parking lot and the Belwin office on the hill, take a left through the gate and follow the single lane road to the parking area near the Belwin Center.