The Rainwater Observatory and Planetarium is an educational ministry of French Camp Academy. It 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.

Observatory History

In the summer of 1985, a 16’ reflector telescope was offered to the Jackson Astronomical Association in Jackson, Mississippi. At the time, they did not have the room or money for it. So, a member of the Association asked Mr. Stuart Irby, Jr., French Camp Academy’s Board Chairman, if the school would be interested in it. Jim Hill, an FCA teacher, was an amateur astronomer and became excited about the project. Hill, assisted by teachers Terry Beutin and Terry Roberts, students Ed Hill and Jerry Thompson and alumnus Steve Garcia, armed themselves with saws and hammers and caravanned to claim the prize. In addition to the telescope, they brought back a 10’ x 10’ building with a roll-off roof, along with many books and accessories.

 

The building was placed atop of an open ridge on French Camp Academy’s Rainwater farm property about a half mile east of the main campus on Highway 413. Far from ambient city lights, the site was an excellent place for an observatory. Bill Clark, owner of Observadome Laboratories in Jackson, Mississippi offered a used 10’ dome if the school could restore it. Hundreds of staff and student labor hours later, a shiny dome sat on the hill and was dedicated to the Lord’s use on Easter morning at sunrise.

observatory facilities

The Observatory, the largest in the state, is spread out on our hilltop site and has over 25 telescopes, plus other optical instruments. Our largest telescopes are a 32-inch Tectron with a Servocat and ArgoNavas automation system and a powerful, research grade, fully automated 25-inch Ritchey-Chretien Sangre telescope and control room with a long focal length, high resolution 6-inch Astrophysics refractor riding piggy back. We also have two 20 inch Dobsonian telescopes that yield spectacular views of the heavens.

 

Other Telescopes:

  • Meade DS-16
  • 2 Celestron C-14s
  • 12.5-inch Ritchey-Cretien Cassegrain
  • 12-inch LX-200 Schmidt-Cassegrain
  • 12-inch fork-mounted Newtonian
  • 2 C-11 Schmidt-Cassegrains
  • 8" Orion Skyquest Reflector
  • 10-inch & 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrains
  • 10 inch Cave Reflector
  • 10 inch Parks Reflector
  • 6-inch AstroPhysics refractor
  • Explore Scientific 127mm APO Triplet Refractor
  • 80mm refractor
  • 50, 70 and 80mm binoculars
  • Daystar Solar filter on an 80mm Williams Doublet Refractor
  • 60mm Coronado Solar Telescope

 

 

...and a number of other powerful scopes!

 

 

Check out our Photo Galleries!

Our unique facility is located in one of the last remaining dark pockets left in the southeastern United States. We can offer a window into the splendor of the heavens that few around the country can offer. We provide day and nighttime astronomy related programming designed for a variety of different groups and organizations including but not limited to universities, schools, colleges, science and nature centers, senior adult and youth groups, international groups, scouts, civic groups, homeschools churches and other faith based organizations.

 

We are excited about our new indoor exhibits containing an impressive meteorite collection with such objects as a Mars meteorite, tektites and a piece of the Chelyabinsk meteorite that hit Russia in 2013! In addition, we have an impressive collection of rocks, minerals asteroid models, space science art exhibit and other astronomy related displays. There are also a number of large scale outdoor exhibits such as solar system scale models and solstice-equinox alignment exhibits.

 

 

Check out our Photo Galleries!

Planetarium

We have an “Observa-dome" Planetarium with a six-meter dome and Spitz A-2 projector. It can seat as many as 50 people and is used primarily to teach stellar and planetary motion, constellations and mythology during the daytime and in the event of evening inclement weather.

 

 

"Edwin Faughn is, to my mind, the persona of wisdom; knowledge tempered with humility. His presentations combine science and imagination, visually captivating and inspiring the audience. He has the ability to blend traditional and contemporary digital media while explaining complex data on the 'common man' level. I have seen Mr. Faughn present and discuss his work to a mixed crowd comprised of five-year-olds to Senior adults. The response was one of amazement."
Michael R. Carter, High Point University, NC
Our weekend at Rainwater was phenomenal! You have one of the best campsites. While we were at Rainwater, our young ladies chose to work on the Astronomy Merit Badge, which your program covered much of it. On Saturday, they had the option of Fire Safety, Basketry, or Moviemaking. Then on Sunday, we did Leatherwork. Many of them worked on requirements for rank advancement through camping and cooking. We had not even left the property before my scouts were already asking to return. Ever since I was a kid, I have been in awe of the stars and universe. To see the Hubble telescope images and learn more about it made a dream become a reality. Even watching the stars in the planetarium was mind blowing and extremely peaceful. My favorite part of the weekend was the sunrises, sunsets, and all the stars! Seeing the planets was beyond incredible. Thank you for hosting us and providing such a fascinating program."
Heather Williamsen, Scoutmaster-Troop 19G, Madison, Mississippi
“Our scouts and adults received a quality program that both informed and challenged everyone regardless of their age. It is very hard to find people who not only know their material, but embrace and communicate it in a way that makes you want learn more. The program presented by Mr. Edwin Faughn and his volunteers is absolutely one of the best educational and inspiring experiences my Scouts have ever had. This program is also unique in that it is an effective melding of both scientific and spiritual messages. We've sought out programs throughout the Southeast to motivate, encourage and inform the young men in our troop. I would have never guessed the top opportunity would be in the hills of Choctaw County. I already have boys asking to schedule this trip again. Thanks again for providing this ministry to our youth.”
David O. Smith, Scoutmaster, Troop 15, Saint Matthew Methodist Church