The Thomsen Observatory

Southwestern Adventist University founded the Thomsen Observatory in 1984 through the generosity of alums Dennis and Connie Dickerson and the efforts of academic dean Hal Wright and physics professor Roy Campbell. The observatory’s name honors the memory of Eugene V. Thomsen, a modern languages professor and formerly Southwestern’s academic dean. Under Campbell’s direction, the observatory became a favorite Friday evening venue for SWAU and the Keene community.

In 2004, the original reflector telescope was replaced with a new 10” TMB APO refractor telescope. Thanks to the efforts of several faculty, alumni, and community members and the generosity of the Thomsen family, the Observatory is functioning once again, but now with the option of either astrophotography or eyepiece viewing. Additional upgrades are still needed, but the very first photos (Orion Nebula and the M3 star cluster, shown in gallery) were taken April 11, 2018!

In 2021, a new roll-off observatory was constructed, about 100′ west of the dome, to house additional scopes that were stored in SWAU’s physics classroom. Since then, additional scopes have been donated or loaned, which include:
Reflectors; 8″ Celestron, 9.25 Celestron, 8″ J.D. Dob, 4″ J.D.. Dob, 18″ Johnsonian and a
14″ Celestron. (J.D. indicates it was built by our volunteer, John Dowell)
Refractors; 7″ Meade APO, 4″ Meade APO,
Solar Scopes; 90cm Coronado, 70mm Coronado
In the Dome; 10″ TMB APO refractor

The Thomsen Observatory is owned by Southwestern Adventist University and supported by donations! Visit swau.edu/give or contact the Development Office at 817-202-6233.

Public Star Parties are held first and third Fridays each month

We will open at sundown and close around 11:00 pm if guests are still with us. There are no entry fees, but donations are very much appreciated, All staff are volunteers and have various astronomy backgrounds, from beginner to lifetime avocation. Two have been star guides at national parks and have vast experience.

You are welcome to bring your own scope to view or to get instruction on its use,


Photos from the Thomsen 10″ TMB APO refractor.

Thomsen Observatory

Partial 2017 Solar Eclipse