“A home for anyone who looks at the heavens with wonder and amazement” – Bill Linton

Photo Credit: Cheryl Schumacher


The Bell Burnell Observatory is located on the Promega campus in Fitchburg, WI. The observatory first opened in 1882 as the Student Observatory on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1960, the building was moved to its current location, where it served as a home for the Madison Astronomical Society for 25 years. Today, the fully renovated observatory is one of the oldest operational observatories in the United States.  

Now the Bell Burnell Observatory, this historic facility is a home for students once again. Educational programs hosted by the BTC Institute will give stargazers of all ages a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience with modern observational tools. These programs are supported by a dedicated education fund established by Bill Linton and Dargar Bjorksten. 

Learn more about the Bell Burnell Observatory’s history and current activities: Bell Burnell Observatory Key Points


Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astronomer best known for discovering the rapidly spinning neutron stars later named “pulsars” while she was a graduate student at the University of Cambridge. She has shown a lifelong commitment to supporting women and other marginalized groups in astronomy. Throughout her long career, she championed the belief that anyone can make the next big discovery, and it is this belief that drives the mission of the Bell Burnell Observatory. 

TOURS, educational Programs & research projects

The Bell Burnell Observatory is open for group visits, as scheduled and staffed though the BTC Institute. You will be able to tour this historic building, including the dome that houses the telescope. Please note that this is a high-power, research-grade telescope that sends images to a computer screen for viewing. PLAN YOUR VISIT

Educational programs are currently being developed for 6 – 12 grade students and the general public. For example, middle school students participating in our space-themed summer program had a great session at the observatory in June.  Check out the photos from their visit and read about what they learned! Looking for this type of experience? Share your interests with us:  PLAN YOUR VISIT

Bob Aloisi, a graduate student in the Department of Astronomy at UW-Madison, is currently conducting research related to exoplanets with a team of undergraduate majors. Their work is supported by a grant from the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium. Sound interesting? Follow Bob’s Blog…

For more information, please contact btci@btci.org.

Bell burnell observatory news
  • Our new summer program for middle school students — Space Explorers — is set to launch June 19 – 30th. As they immerse themselves in space-related content, participants will have the unique opportunity to engage in several sessions at the Bell Burnell Observatory.
  • Bob Aloisi’s undergraduate astronomy group continues their exoplanet research. On February 2, 2023, they were also able to view comet C2022/E3.
  • Promega employees with strong interests in astronomy are being trained to use the telescope at Bell Burnell Observatory as program volunteers. This will allow the BTC Institute to increase our capacity for hosting activities in the future.  At a first session in February, attendees were able to view comet C2022/E3, the horsehead nebula, Jupiter, and the Moon (PHOTOS).
  • This winter we welcomed members of the Middleton High School Astronomy Club, who toured the observatory and were able to garner some great views of the Moon!
Naming dedication of the bell burnell observatory

We were so honored to have Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell join us for the Astronomers’ Day: Panel Discussion and Naming Dedication of the Bell Burnell Observatory on September 6th and 7th, 2022. It was a packed two days of astronomy. So much was shared – from technical discussion to advice regarding ways students can confidently continue their chosen paths. The importance of engaging in outreach efforts that encourage the next generation of astronomers, of informed and thoughtful citizens was emphasized throughout our time together. Thank you Dr. Bell Burnell!


WATCH NOWPanelists: Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell; Edward Churchwell, Albert E. Whitford Professor Emeritus, Department of Astronomy, UW-Madison; Snezana Stanimirovic, Professor, Department of Astronomy, UW-Madison; Sarah Vigeland, Assistant Professor, Physics, University of Wisconsin – MilwaukeeModerator: Will Jarvis, Astronomy/Physics Major, University of Wisconsin – Madison