The Rainwater Observatory and Planetarium is an educational ministry of French Camp Academy. We provide astronomy related programming geared for diverse groups including but not limited to schools, universities, museums and other science centers, conferences, scout groups, astronomy clubs, civic organizations, churches and other faith based groups. The observatory site is located on State Highway 413 just off of the Natchez Trace Parkway in central Mississippi near the village of French Camp (about halfway between Jackson and Tupelo). Click here for travel information.
The Observatory, the largest in the state, is spread out on our hilltop site and has 16 telescopes plus other optical instruments. Our largest telescopes are a 32-inch Tectron with a Servocat and ArgoNavas automation system, a powerful, fully automated 25" Ritchey-Chretien Sangre telescope with a high resolution 6" refractor riding piggy back. We also have a 20.5 inch Dobsonian telescope that yeilds spectacular views of the heavens. Next in size are a Meade DS-16, two Celestron C-14's, a 12.5 inch Ritchey-Cretien Cassegrain, a 12 inch LX-200 Schmidt-Cassegrain, a 12 inch fork- mounted Newtonian, a 6 inch D & G refractor, 10" and 8" Schmidt-Cassegrains, three 6 inch Newtonians, a 6" AstroPhysics refractor, a 4 inch Unitron refractor, a 4 inch SCT, an 80mm refractor, 50, 70, and 80mm binoculars, and a 9.5 inch Maksutov Cassegrain and a number of smaller scopes.
For daytime viewing, we a number of different kinds of solar telescopes utilizing Solar filters (H-alpha, glass, and mylar) as well as solar projection. Our largest is an impressive 90mm Coronado solar telescope with spectacular views of prominences and other surface features on the Sun. Our daytime exhibits include a 300 foot scale model solar system, a large wall-mounted solar projection Analema/Calendar, sun clock, sundials, an 80' circumference celestial sphere, and a full-sized Stonehenge model that shows solstice and equinox sunrise and sunset points. These exhibits are used to demonstrate the Earth's motion and axial tilt, the eccentricity of the Earth's orbit and how the ancients predicted eclipses. PowerPoint presentations and talks on selected astronomical topics are available to visiting groups on request. An outdoor amphitheater and picnic/camping area are just down the hill from the Observatory.
For more serious observers, we have a small warm-up/library classroom building with a refrigerator. We also have an airconditioned bunk house with 14 beds and the French Camp Bed & Breakfast and Lodge can serve other housing needs.
We have an Observa-dome Planetarium with a six-meter dome and Spitz A-2 projector. The Planetarium, which can seat as many as 50 people, is used primarily as a sky orientation device and for PowerPoint presentations. It is the only planetarium for about 100 miles, and one of only three in the state. We offer a variety of programs and exhibits depending on the season and current sky objects. Visiting groups may want to take in a short planetarium show then go to the Observatory to observe. The planetarium houses museum exhibits, including an extensive meteorite collection, a library, a classroom and lecture hall, restrooms and a kitchenette.
About the Academy
French Camp Academy was founded in 1885 by a group of Scotch-Irish Christians on the site of an old French Canadian settler's trading post, hence the name of the town and school. The school has continued for over 100 years without interruption. In 1950, the school was reorganized to provide a school-home for young people K-12. On a beautiful 1000-acre campus, a stable home environment is provided where children can know they are loved and accepted. There is a strong non-sectarian Christian emphasis. The Rainwater Observatory was an outgrowth of the desire to appreciate that "the Heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1). Since its beginning in 1985, it has grown in a remarkable way and served thousands of people throughout the Midsouth and around the world. Our astronomical facility is only one of the many activities to be found at French Camp.
You can also visit our
- Natchez Trace Historic District
- Council House Cafe
- WFCA-FM Christian Radio Station
- Rising Son Retreat Center
- French Camp Bed and Breakfast Inn
For More Information
Write, call, or e-mail:
Rainwater Observatory and Planetarium
One Fine Place
French Camp, Mississippi 39745
Phone: (662) 547-7283
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